Spotlight on Thanksgiving: Children’s Books

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Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message (Kindergarten – 3)

Although this is not a Thanksgiving book proper, this beautifully illustrated reminder of appreciation for our environment and all that we have is an excellent addition to learning about the meaning of Thanksgiving.  The book begins with an author’s note, explaining that “The words in this book are based on the Thanksgiving Address, an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants.”  Not only can this book be a great tool for talking about what we are thankful for around the time of Thanksgiving, but this book can be used as a morning meditation, to remind children to take heed of the environment that provides us with our basic needs and so much more.  This book is also a great way to introduce the topic of Native Americans and to begin to learn more about the people of the Six Nations, who are from Canada and upstate New York.  This is a highly recommended addition to every classroom and home library.

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Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet (Kindergarten – 3)

It is difficult to overstate how wonderful and celebratory this book is by the talented illustrator and author, Melissa Sweet.  Children all over the United States can appreciate the magic and excitement of watching the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving morning, and the magic is only heightened by learning about the puppeteer, Tony Sarg, who was the genius behind the first Macy’s Parade.  This book discusses the immigrant’s experience, a central component to Thanksgiving.  Through bright and gorgeous illustrations, Sweet explains the science and engineering behind creating such large-scale puppets, including some of the mishaps in the first years of the parade.  This book lends itself to crafts and creativity, and children (and adults) will have a fun history lesson to refer to when watching the current parade on Thanksgiving morning.  It is especially a treat to read this to children of all ages, who are lucky enough to see the parade live.  There is plenty here for children of all elementary school ages.  This book also features primary documents such as a newspaper advertisement from the first parade, and a wonderful bibliography for extended research.  This is one of the strongest and rich nonfiction picture books currently circulating.

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‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey (Pre-K – 1)

A fun read aloud with a diverse cast of characters, this poem modeled after Clement Moore’s famous ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas tells the story of eight children on a mission to save eight turkeys from their families’ Thanksgiving feast.  Most appropriate for vegetarian and vegan children who celebrate Thanksgiving, Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame, delivers a silly and adventurous romp that will provide laughter and joy.

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The Thanksgiving Door by Debbie Atwell (K – 3)

A lovely story with a beautiful lesson about community, Thanksgiving Door tells the tale of an older couple who accidentally burn their turkey, but find a welcoming holiday feast at a local café run by an immigrant family. This story addresses themes of hospitality, multiculturalism, immigration, kindness, and appreciation.

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Thank You Sarah: the Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson (1 – 3)

Sarah Hale wrote thousands of letters to state and federal leaders to advocate for different causes.  One of her most famous campaigns was to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday.  She wrote to five presidents and eventually President Abraham Lincoln agreed to grant the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday, Thanksgiving Day.  This story spotlights an empowered woman with fun, amusing, and accessible text and illustrations.  In the back of the book, there is “A Feast of Facts” with more information about Thanksgiving.  This book is an excellent resource to add to a Thanksgiving curriculum.

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Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules (1 – 3)

Duck for Turkey Day is a relatable story about one girl, Tuyet’s cultural traditions not being the norm in her classroom at school.  Tuyet, who is Vietnamese-American is embarrassed that her family eats duck, not turkey on Thanksgiving.  Her teacher helps resolve her feelings of exclusion by teaching the class that Thanksgiving is not about turkey.  Tuyet learns there are a variety of delicious multicultural feasts without turkeys at her classmates’ homes.  This is a very sweet story about remembering that differences need to be celebrated and that family is what matters most.

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Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen (1 – 3)

A classic tale based on a true story passed down through the author’s family, Molly’s Pilgrim is about a young Jewish immigrant from Russia, who is teased at her American school.  When Thanksgiving is approaching, her teacher asks the students to make pilgrim dolls.  Molly’s mother learns the meaning of pilgrim and in turn, makes Molly’s doll look just like Molly, a modern day pilgrim.  This is an excellent tale about cultural diversity, the many meanings of Thanksgiving, and celebrating our many different heritages.  Through beautiful illustrations, this book is sure to stick with some empathetic readers for many years to come.

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How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting (Third)

A historical fiction story of immigrants fleeing their homeland, a Caribbean island for America, this Thanksgiving story will help facilitate discussions about gratitude, freedom, family, learning new traditions, and the meaning of home.  This book uses realistic illustrations and text to tell a serious story of a hard journey where great obstacles are overcome to produce a happy ending for an immigrant family.  This is a story about struggle and perseverance, best suited for older grades.

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