Thanksgiving is known for many things: turkey, parades, football, and, of course, Pilgrims and Native Americans. With all of the distractions and celebrations, it can be easy to forget the meaning and history of the holiday. An easy, fun way to remember why we celebrate, for both old and young, is through children’s books. The simple presentation of facts and intriguing illustrations allow readers to remember what Thanksgiving means and why we celebrate.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Charles M. Schulz
Thanksgiving could not be complete without Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Reading the story, while different than watching the animated version, still holds the same charm and appeal. The lesson learned by Charlie Brown is just as clear in the book and easily understood by readers of all ages.
Over the River and Through the Wood, Illustrated by David Catrow
This version of “A Thanksgiving Poem” by Lydia Maria Child provides readers with an adventure as the youngest member of a family driving to Grandmother’s house is whisked out of the car window and into the Thanksgiving parade. His travels are chronicled by colorful, detailed illustrations that hold no end of amusement for readers. Each drawing connects to a line in the poem, despite the quirkiness of the drawings.
Over the River and Through the Wood, Illustrated by Christopher Manson
In a different rendition of Lydia Maria Child’s poem, readers are treated to a much different story and artistic style. The beautiful two-page spreads of woodcut illustrations give a classic feeling of a traditional nineteenth-century Thanksgiving. Readers follow a family in their sleigh pulled by a dapple-gray on their journey through beautiful, snowy landscapes.
The First Thanksgiving, Garnet Jackson
Starting with their departure from England, this book follows the Pilgrims through their journey, first winter, and relationship with Squanto. The language used is easy to follow, even with the more complicated words and names necessary for the story. The illustrations are cute, colorful, and follow along, adding to the words. With the words and the pictures combined, readers are left with a clear history of the first Thanksgiving that is entertaining for people of all ages to read.
Thanksgiving Day at Our House, Nancy White Carlstrom
This anthology of poems is a fun, easy way to understand elements of Thanksgiving. The poems cover topics from the Mayflower to the Thanksgiving Parade. Illustrations provide a story to otherwise unconnected poems as they follow a family all the way through Thanksgiving Day from the school play the day before to everyone being tucked into bed after a long day celebrating.
Thanksgiving on Thursday, Mary Pope Osborne
Jack and Annie travel in the Magic Tree House back to the first Thanksgiving where they must learn how to accomplish tasks like the Pilgrims. The illustrations add to the plot and help add depth to the characters and setting. Osborne expertly mixes history and magic in a way that leaves readers of all ages enthralled in how Jack and Annie will accomplish their mission while learning historical facts about the First Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving Story, Alice Dalgliesh
The Caldecott Honor winning book presents the story of the Pilgrims as they struggle through their voyage and first year. Focusing on the Hopkins family, the book presents the fictional telling of their journey. This book is slightly dated in its presentation of Native Americans, but it still provides a good story and useful facts.
Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday, Mike Allegra
This biography about Sarah Hale introduces readers to the determined woman who worked to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in America. Accompanied by beautiful watercolor illustrations by David Gardner, the story of Sarah’s life and work is brought to life. In a departure from other Thanksgiving stories that focus on the Pilgrims, the political aspect of Thanksgiving’s creation during the Civil War is a pleasant addition.
Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey, Herman Parish
When all of the teachers are out sick, Amelia Bedelia is asked to direct the school Thanksgiving pageant. In true Amelia Bedelia fashion, confusion arises as she deals with Thanksgiving and theater homophones. Readers are treated to her charming attempts and creative solutions while learning different words through the humorous maid.
Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, Laurie Halse Anderson
Another biography about Sarah Hale focuses less on her life and more on the work she did to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. It discusses her letter writing campaign and shows readers there is more to the holiday than turkeys. The illustrations by Matt Faulkner blend seamlessly with the words to paint a picture of Sarah as the superhero of Thanksgiving. Readers learn the importance of persistence and not giving up by watching Sarah write thousands of letters to reach her goal.