Kids’ Thanksgiving Books: Pilgrims, Traditions and Turkey

| November 3, 2010 | 4 Comments

By Phoebe Vreeland, The Children’s Book Review
Published: November 4, 2010

Hardscrabble Harvest By Dahlov IpcarThanksgiving is a celebration of abundance and there is a virtual cornucopia of children’s books about this holiday.  You can find a Thanksgiving themed book featuring every child’s favorite character from Amelia Bedelia to Scooby Doo.  Bookstore shelves are laden with picture books about the first Thanksgiving as well as ones about today’s holiday tradition.  There even seems to be a whole genre of entertaining books about turkeys on the run.

So with the Thanksgiving spread overflowing, what will you look for in books for your children? What you choose to serve your children helps create the tradition we wish to carry on.  If you want a book that teaches history, it can be tricky.  That harvest feast of 1621 has inspired many an author to use it as a tableau and many an illustrator has romanticized and created beautifully idealized images.  Take care to choose books that are accurate and respectful towards everyone at that table.  Rather than choosing books for their familiar story and warm illustrations, take time to read a book through carefully by yourself before sharing it with your child.  Guidance offered here may inform your choice: http://www.oyate.org.

Today, the Thanksgiving tradition encompasses many things. For some, it is a time to travel, a time to gather with family and friends and feast.  It is a time to watch a football game, attend a school play or a parade.  Above all, the holiday is about giving thanks.  This makes it a wonderful opportunity to evoke gratitude in children.  The list includes several books to encourage this.  It also offers educational books that aim to be culturally sensitive and historically accurate.  The other selections are simply unique or just plain silly—usually about a turkey in trouble.

Happy Thanksgiving!  May your holiday be filled with gratitude, good will, and good books.

Hardscrabble Harvest

by Dahlov Ipcar

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Islandport Press (September 15, 2009)

Source: Library

What to expect: Hardscrabble Harvest uses rollicking verse and Ipcar’s distinctive illustrations to tell a charming story about the running battle between a farm family and the mischievous animals that plunder their fields. Crows peck at freshly sown seeds, ducks eat new strawberry plants, rabbits nibble on tender lettuces, and raccoons dine on ears of ripening corn. All summer long the young farmer and his wife are hard-pressed to protect their growing crops. But autumn comes at last, and the family is ready to celebrate its harvest bushels of red tomatoes, a cellar full of apples for cider and pumpkins for pie.

Add this book to your collection: Hardscrabble Harvest

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message

by Chief Jake Swamp

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 24 pages

Publisher: Lee & Low Books (July 1, 1997)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: Giving Thanks is a special children’s version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada and that is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations. Full color.

Add this book to your collection: Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message

Thanks for Thanksgiving

by Julie Markes

Reading level: Ages 3-7

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (August 26, 2008)

Source: Purchased

Publisher’s synopsis: Everyone knows that Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks—the question is, where to begin? From the turkey on the table to warm, cozy cuddles, life is full of small things and bigger pleasures. But what is most important is being able to share them with family!

Julie Markes reminds kids and adults alike about the little details that make each day enjoyable, while Doris Barrette’s beautiful and striking illustrations bring her thoughtful words to life.

Add this book to your collection: Thanks for Thanksgiving

In November

by Cynthia Rylant

Reading level: Ages 3-7

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Sandpiper; Reprint edition (September 1, 2008)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: In November, the air grows cold and the earth and all its creatures prepare for winter. Animals seek food and shelter, and people gather together to celebrate their blessings with family and friends. Cynthia Rylant’s lyrical language and Jill Kastner’s rich, cozy paintings capture the cherished moments of this autumn month.

Add this book to your collection: In November

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving (I Am American)

by Catherine O’Neill Grace

Reading level: Ages 8-12

Paperback: 48 pages

Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books (October 1, 2004)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: In cooperation with the Plimoth Plantation, a living-history museum in Massachusetts, National Geographic has recreated the first Thanksgiving. Photographs by National Geographic photographers of the recreation at Plimoth Plantation illustrate this book. In 1621, in a small settlement on the edge of the sea, 52 English colonists celebrated their first harvest. The colonists were joined by 90 men of the Wampanoag tribe for a gathering that was to last three days in a town now known as Plymouth. Over the centuries, there have been countless versions of this story, creating a popular myth of the first Thanksgiving. Many Americans imagine brave, peaceful settlers inviting a few wild Indians over for a turkey dinner. But there was no pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce at this celebration. There were no Indians with woven blankets over their shoulders and large feathered headdresses. No pilgrims with somber black clothes and silver buckle hats either. The English didn’t even call themselves Pilgrims. This book puts aside that myth and takes a new look at our American history. It questions what we know and recovers lost voices of the Wampanoag people. True history includes the voices of all its participants. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving invites young people to read, listen, and think about our shared history. The book also features a foreword, a section on the actual reenactment and the concept of living history, a chronology, an index, and a bibliography.

Add this book to your collection: 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving (I Am American)

The Secret of Saying Thanks

by Douglas Wood

Reading level: Ages 3-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing (September 27, 2005)

Source: Personal collection

Publisher’s synopsis: Perhaps you’d like to know a secret, one of the happiest ones of all.

You will surely find it for yourself one day.

You’ll discover it all on your own, maybe when you least expect it. If you’ve not yet discovered the secret of saying thanks, it’s waiting for you. The secret can be found in the sunrise that offers promises full for the day ahead, or in the gentle shade of a tree sheltering you from the hot rays of the sun, or on the rock that offers rest from a long walk.

In the inspirational text that made him a bestselling, internationally acclaimed author, Douglas Wood offers a spiritual homage to nature and the world. Greg Shed’s stunning portraits of the natural world tenderly portray all of the many ways in which we can say thanks for the wonders we sometimes take granted in life.

Add this book to your collection: The Secret of Saying Thanks

Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners

by Lucille Recht Penner

Reading level: Ages 7-10

Paperback: 128 pages

Publisher: Aladdin (September 1, 1997)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: This lively account draws young readers into the Pilgrims’ daily life as it explores the food, customs, and manners of these early American settlers. Written in a straightforward and down-to-earth style, the book includes historical line drawings, savory descriptions of food preparations, and quotations from writers of the era.

Add this book to your collection: Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners

‘Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving

by Dav Pilkey

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (October 1, 2004)

Source: Personal collection

Publisher’s synopsis: The incomparable Dav Pilkey adapts Clement Moore’s classic Christmas poem to tell his wacky Thanksgiving tale. The day before Thanksgiving, eight boys and girls take a field trip to a turkey farm. They have fun playing with eight exuberant turkeys but are shocked to learn that Farmer Mack Nuggett plans to kill all the turkeys for Thanksgiving dinners. So the children decide to smuggle all the turkeys home, and all their Thanksgiving dinners become vegetarian this year. The turkeys’ lives are saved!

Add this book to your collection: ‘Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving Door

by Debby Atwell

Reading level: Ages 5-8

Paperback: 32 pages

Publisher: Sandpiper (September 25, 2006)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: This beautifully illustrated story reminds everyone that Thanksgiving is about opening one’s heart in welcome to the strangers who become friends and the disappointments that bring unexpected joys.

Add this book to your collection: The Thanksgiving Door

Milly And The Macy’s Parade

by Shana Corey

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 40 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.; 1 edition (October 1, 2006)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: It’s 1924 and the holidays are approaching. Milly lives in NYC with her Polish family and frolics daily in holiday displays at the Macy’s store under the watchful eye of Mr. Macy. But Milly’s family misses their homeland and traditions. In an effort to cheer people up, Milly convinces Mr. Macy to combine old country traditions with new American heritage in a celebration for all to enjoy. Everyone agrees that the resulting parade will become a wonderful new tradition. This heartwarming story beautifully captures the creation of a uniquely American event.

Add this book to your collection: Milly And The Macy’s Parade

Beauty and the Beaks: A Turkey’s Cautionary Tale

by Mary Jane Auch

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 24 pages

Publisher: Holiday House (August 2008)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: Beauty and her friends think Lance is the most conceited bird in the hen yard. From the moment the turkey arrives on the farm, he spends his time swaggering around the Chic Hen beauty shop, boasting that he is the only bird invited to a special feast. But when Beauty practices her favorite eggsercise, flying, she accidentally discovers just what kind of guest Lance will be at the feast. Can beauty come up with a plan to save Lance before his life eggspires?

Add this book to your collection: Beauty and the Beaks: A Turkey’s Cautionary Tale

Ankle Soup

by Maureen Sullivan

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Mojo Inkworks (September 8, 2008)

Source: Library

Publisher’s synopsis: Ankle Soup is a hardcover picture book about a French Bulldog named Carlos who finds himself in the middle of Grand Central Terminal on Thanksgiving morning. It’s a read-aloud in rhyme geared to the 4-9 year old reader. Ankle Soup is in a New York state of mind as the people of the world pass Carlos on their way to their holiday destinations.

Add this book to your collection: Ankle Soup

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Category: Book Lists, Seasonal: Holiday Books

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