thank you, omu!

Thanksgiving may now be past in the United States, but there’s no end date on sharing, giving thanks, and giving back. Author-illustrator Oge Mora’s debut picture book Thank You, Omu! is a gorgeous soon-to-be classic. It is perfect for year-round reading, and holiday gifting.

thank you, omu! by oge mora cover
In this remarkable author-illustrator debut that’s perfect for fans of Last Stop on Market Street and Extra Yarn as well as for the Thanksgiving season, a generous woman is rewarded by her community.

Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu’s delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself?

Debut author-illustrator Oge Mora brings to life a heartwarming story of sharing and community in colorful cut-paper designs as luscious as Omu’s stew, with an extra serving of love. An author’s note explains that “Omu” (pronounced AH-moo) means “queen” in the Igbo language of her parents, but growing up, she used it to mean “Grandma.” This book was inspired by the strong female role models in Oge Mora’s life.

The thick red stew that Omu is making will surely be the best dinner that she has ever eaten. It smells wonderful and the taste test promises great things. However, when she sits down to read while she waits, the scent of her stew draws others to her door – first a little boy, then a police officer, then a hot dog vendor, and so on! After a day spent sharing a bowl with everyone who asks, Omu is left without any stew for her own dinner. Soon a knock on her door reveals everyone with whom she shared her meal, there this time to give, and not take.

Mora’s story is full of good cheer – generosity, hospitality, sharing food, and sharing company. It’s a simple story, but an evocative one, and it serves as a sort of modern parable. Omu’s unselfish giving prompts others not only to enjoy what they take, but also to give back themselves. It portrays an ideal, but one that is always worth sharing in hard times.

Other themes/things to love about the story: giving thanks when you can’t contribute things, making community, kindness to strangers, and a new plan or situation being even better than the old one because of a gratitude, and a full heart.

And the art! The art is *kisses fingers* fantastic. Truly classic picture book material, reminiscent of Ezra Jack Keats’ work, including perennial favorite The Snowy Day. Mora’s cut paper artwork utilizes painted and patterned paper, some clipped from books or maps. She also uses markers, acrylics, and more. It’s a mixed media wonderland. The endpapers are the city street grid rendered in blocky cut paper squares. The wafting scent of the stew is illustrated by rising steam that reaches farther and farther in the city. A mix of cut paper lettering and type make for evocative text setting – readers will know when to emphasize certain words to make the story sing. I can’t praise the art and design enough – they are truly special.

In all, Thank You, Omu! is an artful, food- and community-themed picture book with a diverse cast of characters and gorgeous, vibrant cut paper art. It belongs in every picture book collection.

Recommended for: any and every reader ages 3 and up, and especially for Thanksgiving and Christmas storytimes, though the messages of sharing and caring are necessary and important all the year long.

Interested in other food-related posts? Check out Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking!


Claudia said...

This sounds like a terrific book for the Holiday, and always. I love the gratitude attitude it encourages.

Carole said...

Looking our for this one! Cheers

Beth F said...

This sounds wonderful and I bet it would make a great gift.

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