- Virginia Johnson
Rich, beautiful drawings from Christopher Raschka invite young children into a vividly natural world in Simple Gifts: A Shaker Hymn.
“Simple Gifts” was originally a hymn belonging to the Shakers, a Christian religious group that, though very few in number today, gained much admiration for their craftwork, simplicity, and enjoyment of life.
Their philosophy brought them close to nature. Singing and dancing were very much a part of their worship. Part of their dance involved “turning,” and these practices are alluded to in Raschka’s picture book.
Simple Gifts is an easily recognizable tune as it became an integral part of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. Its notes are sweet to sing to children. In Raschka’s short book, the turning of the creatures (a bluebird, a rabbit, a fox, and a turtle) towards one another harmonizes with the turning of the seasons. Sheet music is included, but it’s an easy tune to pick up by ear.
This book is a simple gift of its own to children who enjoy animals, nature, and singing. If you Like Christopher Raschka’s Simple Gifts, you may enjoy his other picture books, too. If you are intrigued by the history of the Shakers, consider checking out Ken Burns’ documentary The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God or more of their music from our collection.