Thanksgiving Thursdays: A Harvest of Children’s Books

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Let me start off by saying that Thanksgiving books can be tricky.  So many books on this subject older than 15 years are not politically correct.  You can go even further and find offense to most every depiction of Native Americans in older titles, and even newer ones too {and if you don’t believe me, visit Debbie Reese’s blog for tons of information on this matter}.  Additionally, there is much controversy over the whole “Thanksgiving Story”.  Let’s not get into that today, but rather just note that I mentioned it and if you are interested in learning more on the subject I have a few links listed below {please forgive me, I was a school librarian so I do need to cover all my bases}.

That being said, I’m going to go ahead and post a list of some of my favorites.  I’m going to call this list “middle of the road”, because I don’t think any should be offensive but without a copy in front of me I can’t say for sure.  I DO know they are well loved and great reads, so hopefully that overrides any material that might not be 100% accurate.  And, as we know, if you do run across something that is iffy it’s always a great way to start that conversation with your child.  Teachable moments, and all that jazz!

 A Harvest of Thanksgiving Themed Picture Books
Arthur’s Thanksgiving by Marc Brown

Arthur has the huge job of directing the Thanksgiving play, and it seems like fun at first until he realizes no one wants to play the role of turkey.  Sigh.  WHAT will Arthur DO???

Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen

No one seems to love this book as much as I do, but I had to include it anyways.  Molly is a modern day pilgrim, coming to America to escape religious persecution.  It’s no surprise, then, when her teacher instructs them to make a model of a pilgrim for homework Molly’s mother makes a replica of themselves.  Her classmates find this funny until they understand the real meaning of being a pilgrim.   I think it’s a heartwarming story, and think students in mid to upper elementary might enjoy it.  It certainly can leave plenty of openings for discussions on pilgrims, teasing, bullying, and acceptance.

I’m Thankful Each Day by P. K. Hallinan

An oldie but goodie, this classic book’s main character describes all the things he has to be thankful for.  Such a great way to start your own Thanksgiving “thankful” discussions!

In November by Cynthia Rylant

This book is just beautiful.  It describes the traditions and changes that November brings, highlighted by crisp watercolor illustrations.  After reading, a fun activity would be to go leaf collecting or create tissue paper leaves!

Thanksgiving Day by Anne Rockwell

This is told by a diverse group of students in a class play, who correlate our current traditions with historical tidbits.  Overall a great book chock full of information.  Plus the illustrations are bright and cheery!

Over the River and Through the Wood 
by Lydia Marie Child (illustrated by Christopher Manson)

This poem is synonymous with the holiday itself.  The woodcut illustrations only add to the delight of this story!  What would Thanksgiving be without a rousing chorus of this song?  {maybe it’s just us, but we always sang it on the way to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving when I was younger.  Ahhhh, memories}.

Crafts for Thanksgiving by Kathy Ross

This book goes beyond the handprint turkey with many additional ideas for 5 to 7 year olds to get crafty! 

Thank you, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson

Ms. Anderson is one of my favorite writers.  Typically she writes young adult books, so I was thrilled to find she wrote a picture book!  Thank you, Sarah tells the true story of how one woman convinced President Lincoln to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday.  That’s right; without Sarah Hale, we might not have this wonderful holiday!

Thanksgiving is… by Gail Gibbons

Gail Gibbons describes the customs, traditions, and history of Thanksgiving in this charming book.  With only two to three lines of text per page, it gives clear information without overwhelming young readers.

Additional Resources

Want some great printable books on Thanksgiving, autumn, and harvest?  Enchanted Learning has many free printables, perfect for preschool and elementary aged students!

Looking for a really great YOUNG ADULT read about native americans?  It’s not PG, but it’s GOOD.  I highly recommend The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (yes, it’s fiction).

THE BEST LIST of recommended books about Native Americans and many, many resources about this subject can be found on Debbie Reese’s blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature.

I is not for Indian: a great article (although a bit old) about selecting books about Native Americans (and which ones to avoid).

Your turn!  Do you have any Thanksgiving favorites, either from this list or in addition to it?  Please share! 

Still to come in our Thanksgiving Thursday series:
::  Recipes for the big day (including the 2 1/2 hour turkey!)
::  Tablescapes
::  Gratitude Party

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