Thanksgiving is a great time to pause and read some books about this favorite holiday with the kids. There are so many good books out there, but here are some I liked.
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message
by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup
Lee & Low Books, 2003, 40 pages
This is not a traditional Thanksgiving Day book, but a book about giving thanks every day. It is a children's version of the Mohawk Thanksgiving Address of the Six Nations or Iroquois, giving thanks to the natural world for providing all the things needed to live. It is written by Chief Jake Swamp of the Mohawk Nation. The illustrations, done by Erwin Printup, are in a folk art style and rendered in acrylic paints, in colors that are a basic and simple as the beautiful Thanksgiving Address. This is one of my favorite books, reminding us of the importance of the natural world, a world we should all give thanks for and work to preserve.
You can hear Chief Jake Swamp reading the text of Giving Thanks courtesy of New Hampshire PBS. As he reads, in both Mohawk and English, and accompanied by a slide how of the books illustrations.
The Mayflower by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frané Lessac
Holiday House, 2014, 32 pages
In 1620, 102 people boarded the Mayflower, a small wooden ship, and crossed the Atlantic Ocean seeking a new life. In straightforward language, the reasons why these people, called Pilgrims, decided to risk such an uncertain trip, the hardships of the first year, the help received from Natives Americans including Squanto, a member of the Wampanoag tribe, that insured their survival, and the shared first Thanksgiving after a successful harvest. Lessac's illustrations, painted using gouache, are done in simple, but brightly colored folk art type, so reminiscent of Early American art and really bring the factual text to life.
Giving Thanks by Jonathan London, paintings by Gregory Manchess
Candlewick Press, 2014, 32 pages
This lovely book feels very much like the book Giving Thanks by Chief Jake Swamp and no wonder, Jonathan London is also an advocate of the natural world and how people are connected to it. In his book, also called Giving Thanks, a young boy and his father hike through the fields and forests near their home and "Like his Indian friends- singers and storytellers- Dad believes that the things of nature are a gift. And that in return, we should give something back. We must give thanks." As dad gives thanks to the different things of the forest, his son admits to feeling a little embarrassed about it, until he tries it himself. Accompanying this short, heartfelt book are oil painted illustrations in a soft earthy, autumnal palette.
Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving
edited by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton
Chronicle Books, 2013, 56 pages
Gathered together, like the world's most diverse Thanksgiving table, are some wide and varied words of thanks. Some you will recognize, some may be new to you. These 50 songs of praise are especially timely as the holiday season begins, and all carry of basic message of joyful thanks. The book is delicately illustrated using cut paper-or Scherenschnitte designs, many of which are that illuminate with watercolor. Be sure to look closely at each illustration to fully appreciate the textured intricacy of each design.
Over the River and Through the Wood: The New England Boy's Song about Thanksgiving Day
by L. Maria Child, illustrated by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2013, 32 pages
I remember learning this poem as a song about going to grandmother's instead of grandfather's house for Thanksgiving when I was in grade school. This poem first appeared in 1844 and has been a Thanksgiving Day favorite ever since. This lovely book returns to the original words and includes all stanzas, many of which will be new to readers. The poem captures all the excitement and anticipation of a family going by sleigh to the the grandparent's house to celebrate the holiday - not so very different from today's world. Matt Tavares has used a mix of watercolors, gouache and pencil to successfully render the frosty cold snowy day of an early New England Thanksgiving. A nice family touch is including the family dog running beside the sleigh, just as excited as everyone else.
Curious abut an illustrators creative process? Matt Tavares has posted the short video showing that process for one of his illustrations for Over the River and Through the Woods:
This poem was written by Lydia. Maria Child (1802-1880), who was a teacher, an abolitionist, a journalist, and a champion of women's rights, and who was a very prolific writer.
Gobble, Gobble, Tucker! by Leslie McGuirk
Candlewick Press, 2014, 32 pages
Here is a fun Thanksgiving board book that is sure to appeal to the very young. Tucker can tell by the smell of things that it is Thanksgiving. That means good food, maybe a few tastings if something drops accidentally while cooking, helping to clean and decorate and waiting for the relatives, and his cousins Tiger and Murphy. Tucker's is a typical Thanksgiving Day, just told for a dog's point of view. There is no excitement, no canine calamities, just family, food and fun on a special day and a nice introduction to the typical Thanksgiving celebration. The author used whimsical gouache illustrations to help tell her story.
The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing
Candlewick Press, 2014, 32 pages
OK, so not every one's Thanksgiving is quiet and joyful and thankful and peaceful. Sometimes, kids can get overwhelmed by all the relatives that show up at grandma's house and spread themselves out everywhere. So, when cousin Rhonda suggests to little Gavin that they escape the crowds and make their own fun, he decides this is a good idea. But, it seems that every room in the house is full of people. There are the aunts in one room just waiting to scoop them up, pinching and squeezing your cheeks, there are the other kids playing wildly in the kids' room, and teenage kids watching TV zombie-like in the basement. Even the kitchen, with all that good food it a relative trap. Will Gavin and Rhonda actually be able to make their own fun in the mass of relatives? The Great Thanksgiving Escape is a humorous look at is a very different look at this holiday, but one that may be closer to true than we like to think. The cartoon-like illustrations were done by Fearing in digitally manipulated color pencil and are all done at the eye level of a kid, so only the bottom half of the adults are visible.
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin, 2011, 40 pages
I reviewed this back in 2012 and it remains one of my favorite Thanksgiving books. I thought it worth a second look. Sweet chronicles the history of master puppeteer Tony Sarg and the evolution of the first gigantic balloons used in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Like the parade itself, Sweet's child friendly illustrations, done in a mixed media of watercolor and collage, will have kids turning pages in a procession of anticipatory fun and they will not be disappointed.
by Barbara Park
Random House, 2012, 144 pages
Three days before Thanksgiving, Junie B's school is have a contest to see which class has to best list of things they are thankful for and the winning class gets a pumpkin pie. None of this makes Junie happy - she hate pumpkin pie, her pilgrim costume itches, and maybe exploding biscuits isn't quite what the school had in mind for thankful things. This is a fun and funny look chapter book, and in the end, well, let's just say, it's a pretty thankful ending.
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace,
Margaret M. Bruchac
National Geographic Society, 2014, 48 pages
In an attempt to set things right and dispel some of the myths that surround the first Thanksgiving, Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, together with the Plimoth Foundation, have produced this informative book showing that Thanksgiving is, indeed, is a shared history, shared by 52 white colonists and 90 Wanpanoag men for three days after the first harvest. But, too often in books for kids, only the pilgrim's point of view is given and the Native Americans are relegated to a minor role in serious books or a comical role in more lighthearted stories. Most don't really give full credit to how much the Pilgrims survival was due to the help of the Wampanoag and their leader Massasoit. This picture book for older readers (age 7+) includes copious photographs, a bibliography, and a timeline.
An extensive PDF lesson plan for this book is available from the Montana Office of Public Instruction HERE