Thanksgiving Books

by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac With Plimoth Plantation
Published 2001

Synopsis: Countering the prevailing, traditional story of the first Thanksgiving, with its black-hatted, silver-buckled Pilgrims; blanket-clad, be-feathered Indians; cranberry sauce; pumpkin pie; and turkey, this lushly illustrated photo-essay presents a more measured, balanced, and historically accurate version of the three-day harvest celebration in 1621.

My notes: As part of my girls' Beautiful Feet History this year, we read a number of more accurate accounts of the first thanksgiving and the events leading up to it. This featured book also presents an accurate account, drawing from the primary sources we have available.

by Alice Dalgliesh

The Thanksgiving Story

Publisher SynopsisDagliesh and Sewell received praise for the clarity and immediacy of their picture book, a hit of the season in 1954. Today's children, beginners and advanced readers, will value the story about one family's first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth Colony, strikingly present in stylized, naive pictures like colored etchings. Giles, Constance and Damaris Hopkins are aboard the Mayflower, overcrowded when the Speedwell turns back to England. On the journey, the children's baby brother is born and named Oceanus; he will be one of the smallest in the company of settlers who endure the terrible first year in the New World and gather to celebrate the harvest the next November. The story ends with the great feast to which the colonists invited the Indian chief Massasoit, Squanto and their people who had helped the strangers survive hunger, cold and sickness.

by Kate Waters
Published 2001 

Synopsis: Sometime between September 21 and November 9, 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people shared a harvest celebration that has become known as the First Thanksgiving. This is the story of what happened during those days, as told by dancing Moccasins, a fourteen-year-old Wampanoag boy, and Resolved White, a six-year-old English boy. Photographed in full color at the Plimoth Plantation, this accurate reenactment will let you experience a time when early English colonists settled on the rich and fertile land of the Wampanoag people.

By Marcia Sewall

Synopsis:  In a text that mirrors their language and thoughts, Marcia Sewall has masterfully recreated the coming of the pilgrims to the New World, and the daily flow of their days during the first years in the colony they called Plimoth.

Aye, Governor Bradford calls us pilgrims. We are English and England was our home...But our lives were ruled by King James, and for many years it seemed as though our very hearts were in prison in England...
September, 1620, our lives changed. We were seventy menfolk and womenfolk, thirty-two good children, a handful of cocks and hens, and two dogs, gathered together on a dock in Plymouth, England, ready to set sail for America in a small ship called the Mayflower...

After an abundance of prayers and tears we made farewells at dockside and boarded our small ship. Our voyage across the Atlantic Ocean "began with a prosperous wind," but the sea soon became "sharp and violent" and storms howled about us.

When the pilgrims set out for America, they brought with them a dream for the future. Sickness, hardship, and heartache stood in the way of that dream. But the pilgrims worked hard, keeping their dream close to their hearts, until they were finally able to make it come true.

by Margaret Pumphrey

Synopsis: This 1910 publication has been newly edited and expanded to include a horizontal history of the world of the Pilgrims of the early 17th century. This replaces the formerly titled Stories of the Pilgrims used in our Early American History Primary Study Guide. Now children will learn not only the faithful saga of the Separatist's struggle for religious freedom, but also that young Rembrandt was just learning to walk when the Pilgrims arrived in Leiden, that Galileo was fighting his own battle for religious and scientific freedom, and that William Brewster served as clerk to Queen Elizabeth's secretary until the ill-fated execution of Elizabeth's half sister, Mary. Historical figures from around the world will see the Pilgrim's heroic struggle in a more meaningful context. With whimsical illustrations by Christen Blechschmid, children and parents alike will see the world as the Pilgrims saw and lived it.

My Notes: Available from Beautiful Feet books, this is the most comprehensive history of the Pilgrims I've ever encountered. An excellent choice! I'm so glad we read it.

by Clyde R. Bulla

Synopsis: This biography for young readers tells of the adventurous life of the Wampanoag Indian who befriended the Pilgrims at Plymouth.

The selflessness of Squanto is a good starting point for a discussion about this pivotal time in American history, during which the Indians had to make room for the new, white culture. The story is simply, yet engagingly told, and will inspire many questions about the customs and lifestyles of two very different societies.

 text by Robert San Souci

N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims

Publisher Synopsis: The adventurous saga of the settling of the Plymouth Colony is strikingly portrayed in this magnificent book. Spectacular paintings by renowned artist N.C. Wyeth, gloriously bring to life the carefully researched text by well known children's book author Robert San Souci. The story of the Pilgrims, including the first Thanksgiving, is a central part of America's history and, over the course of time, it has taken on an almost mythical quality. Drawing upon a variety of resources, including the author's trip to the Plimouth Plantation, the text dispels some popular misconceptions about the setting of our nation as it broadens our understanding of the bravery and determination of our forebears. A beautiful artbook as well as an informative history book, N.C Wyeth's Pilgrims belongs in every home, library, and classroom.

A Turkey for Thanksgiving
by Eve Bunting

Synopsis: Mr. and Mrs. Moose invite all their animal friends for Thanksgiving dinner and the only one missing is Turkey. When they set out to find him, Turkey is quaking with fear because he doesn't realize that his hosts want him at their table, not on it.

My notes: One of my all-time favorite picture books. So cute! I love Eve Bunting.

by Rhonda Gowler Greene

Very First Thanksgiving Day

Publisher Synopsis: The story of the first Thanksgiving celebration, told in cumulative rhyme, introduces young readers to America's most beloved national tradition, which began with a shared feast to rejoice in the bounty of the land, new beginnings, and peace between two societies.
Exquisite paintings by Susan Gaber transport the reader back to the earliest days of American history with meticulous detail and breathtaking imagery. Sure to be a yearly favorite, The Very First Thanksgiving Day will resonate with readers young and old on this day for thanks and blessings.

Samuel Easton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy 
by Kate Waters

Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy

Publisher Synopsis: Samuel Eaton is a young boy living in an early American settlement in the year 1627, and today is the day he will help with his first rye harvest! If he can prove to his father he's up to the task, he will be able to help with all of the harvest. But harvesting rye is even more difficult than he expected. Was he foolish to think he could do a man's work?

Text and photographs follow a six-year-old Pilgrim boy through a busy day during the spring harvest in 1627: doing chores, getting to know his Wampanoag Indian neighbors, and spending time with his family.

Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl
by Kate Waters

Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl (Scholastic Bookshelf Series)

Publisher SynopsisAt sunup when the cockerel crows, young Sarah Morton's day begins. Come and join her as she goes about her work and play in an early American settlement in the year 1627.
There's a fire to build, breakfast to cook, chickens to feed, goats to milk, and letters and scripture to learn. Between the chores, there is her best friend, Elizabeth, with whom she shares her hopes and dreams. But Sarah is worried about her new stepfather. Will she ever earn his love and learn to call him father?

by Garnet Jackson

The First Thanksgiving

Publisher SynopsisWhen the Pilgrims landed in New England, many died during the first harsh winter. This easy-to-read story describes the first Thanksgiving celebration and tells how Native Americans helped the Pilgrims through that first difficult year.

 by Ann McGovern

Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving

Publisher SynopsisElroy Freem (the pseudonym of a popular children's book artist) gives this reissue of a favorite story new life. Teachers, parents, and children will give thanks for this easy-to-read, larger format book with lively, full-color illustrations.

This particular book is full of rich details; I feel the above synopsis doesn't do it justice.

by Linda Hayward

The First Thanksgiving

Publisher SynopsisYoung readers start the familiar story behind our tradition of Thanksgiving Day in England in 1620, when the Pilgrims are setting sail for far-off America, leaving behind friends and safe homes. The reasons for their journey, the trials they endure while at sea, and all of their amazing adventures are detailed in this easy-to-read book. 

by Kate Waters

On the Mayflower

School Library Journal Synopsis: Photographed on the Mayflower II, a replica of the original ship, this fourth book in an acclaimed series charts the high seas friendship of two young passengers. "Well written, designed, and photographed." — School Library Journal

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott (first published 1881)

Publisher Synopsis: Thanksgiving morning is here, and the Bassett family's cozy kitchen is filled with the hustle and bustle of the holiday. But this year something is different: Tilly, Prue, and their brothers and sisters have been left in charge of everything from the roasted turkey to the apple slump. They tie on their aprons and step into the kitchen, but are they really up for the challenge of cooking a Thanksgiving feast?

In this stunning new edition of Louisa May Alcott's classic holiday tale, James Bernardin's joyous illustrations bring the spirit of a truly old-fashioned Thanksgiving to vibrant life.

My Notes: Don't miss this one! Heartwarming, fun, delicious, and beautifully written.
Thanksgiving With Me by Margaret Willey (published 1998)

Publisher Synopsis:

Sit down, Mother, and tell me again. When are my uncles coming? When?

Pressed against the windowsill in breathless anticipation, a little girl cannot wait for her beloved uncles to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. She begs her mother to tell her about each and every one of them. What follows is a lyrical duet culminating in the whole house rollicking with music, dance, song, and a joyous feast. And just as they finish their reverie, who should that be coming around the bend? A holiday tale perfectly suited to any child who has waited impatiently for the arrival of favorite relatives to turn a special day info one of true thanksgiving.
My Notes: Cute, heartwarming, nostalgic, and I love the rhythmic verse.

Food and Recipes of the Pilgrims (Cooking Throughout American History) by George Erdosh
published 1997

Synopsis: Chock full of recipes with step-by-step directions for kids to follow, this series is a unique way for kids to eat their way through American history. Many modern historians think the history of mankind is not to be found solely in the decisions of rulers and battles won or lost, but in the lives of everyday people. Looking closely at the environment, economics, eating habits, and favorite foods of our American forebears teaches us volumes about their world and ours.When the seeds that the Pilgrims brought with them from England refused to grow in American soil, the settlers turned to the Native Americans for guidance. Students will learn the true spirit of Thanksgiving as they make the baked butternut squash and Pilgrim's honey apples that fed our hungry forefathers and mothers.

My Notes: This is also an engaging primary history book, which I'm not sure is evident in the above synopsis. We will be trying several of the recipes! Author George Erdosh wrote several in this series, including Revolutionary War cooking, Civil War cooking, Native American Cooking, and Thirteen Colonies Cooking.

A Thanksgiving Turkey by Julian Scheer  published 2001               

School Library Journal Synopsis: K-Gr 6 In this picture book, a 13-year-old and his mother move to his grandfather's farm in rural Virginia. Reluctant at first, the boy adapts to country life, finding there is much to learn from his granddad. Determined to track and shoot an old tom turkey that had been a worthy adversary for years, the grandfather takes the boy hunting. The seasons pass and they are never able to spot the bird, just hear him. One fateful day at Thanksgiving time, they corner the old turkey with his long beard, only to discover the joy in letting him fly free. After all, he had been in the woods as long as the old man and deserved their respect. Soft, watercolor illustrations and a story gently and respectfully told in the first person evoke memories of a time past (when a hard-earned dollar and eighty cents bought a fat turkey). It is a tale well told, reminiscent of sitting and listening to the old folks swap stories at a family gathering.

Publisher's Weekly Synopsis: A 13-year-old boy and his grandfather spend months hunting down a wild turkey in the early-morning darkness in this nostalgic and affecting story. But when they finally come face-to-face with their prey, the grandfather cannot bring himself to shoot it. Scheer and Himler (previously paired for By the Light of the Captured Moon) simultaneously develop the boy's relationship with his grandfather and with the woods. The story smoothly incorporates facts about turkeys' roosting habits, while the sketchy but realistic watercolors evoke the enchantment of the predawn hours. Ages 4-8.

Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving 
Edited with reflections by Katherine Paterson (published 2013)

Publisher Synopsis: Newbery Medal winner Katherine Paterson and cut-paper artist Pamela Dalton give fans of all ages even more to be thankful for with Giving Thanks, a special book about gratitude. Katherine Paterson's meditations on what it means to be truly grateful and Pamela Dalton's exquisite cut-paper illustrations are paired with a collection of over 50 graces, poems, and praise songs from a wide range of cultures, religions, and voices. The unique collaboration between these two extraordinary artists flowers in this important and stunningly beautiful reflection on the act of giving thanks.

Synopsis: (Booklist Review): As they did in the beautiful Brother Sun, Sister Moon (2011), Newbery medalist Paterson and cut-paper artist extraordinaire Dalton combine their considerable talents to bring to young people the concept of giving thanks. Paterson offers several meditations on ways she experienced thanksgiving, gratitude, and love throughout her life. Following each are several pages of poems, hymns, and snippets of praise songs from various cultures and religions, allowing readers to experience emotions and practices through many voices. Dalton, who is a practitioner of the early-nineteenth-century American paper-cutting technique called scherenschnitte (“scissor cuts”), has used paper “antiqued in a coffee solution, ironed, and illuminated with watercolor.” She fashions wondrous garlands, lattices hiding birds and rabbits, individual flowers and butterflies, and frames

housing families reading books. The considerable thought to design—from substantial buff-colored pages to the placement of the art—is balanced by an equal appreciation for the works selected. Wonderful to have on hand for Thanksgiving, this is a book to be picked up throughout the year and savored and discussed. Grades 4-7

My Notes: I'm still not sure what I think of Katherine Paterson's work. Bridge to Terabithia is awfully heavy and sad. Jacob Have I Loved is also somewhat controversial with its grown-up topics. Her work is extensive (100 books) and good, but the selections for older students often requires a lot of parental guidance. This selection is good for giving children a sense that gratitude has been important for all time, for all cultures. It's an essential human mindset that enriches life, despite our trials. God also commands it!

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