KidPages: Five Thanksgiving Books

Nov 21, 2012

Even though I love Thanksgiving, I can't say I'm in love with Thanksgiving books. There just seem to be a lot of...can I use the word "boring"?...stories. But these five books? They are most certainly not boring. And they will put you right in the mood to eat some stuffing and count your blessings:

1. Sometimes It's Turkey, Sometimes It's Feathers, Lorna Balian
Although not a new book (1973), Sometimes It's Turkey, Sometimes It's Feathers is new to us this year. I love it when I find a new, old book. It gives me hope that there are still many old books out there that I have yet to discover.

If you're in the mood for a good story, this is it. Mrs. Gumm (love her name!) finds an egg one day while she is hunting for mushrooms. The egg turns out to be nothing less than a genuine turkey egg, and Mrs. Gumm and her cat lovingly care for the turkey that hatches out of it in the hopes that he will make a delicious Thanksgiving dinner come fall. Of course, after all that love and care, Mrs. Gumm can't bring herself to eat him, making the excuse that he will be even bigger next Thanksgiving.

I love Lorna Balian's illustrations - fine lines and neutral colors (kind of like black and white ink, but brown and white instead). The copy we have from the library is an old edition, and it looks like the cover (and perhaps the inside too?) has since been updated, but it's a great book either way. 

2. The First Thanksgiving, Nancy Davis
I'm feeling a little possessive over this book. I found it at the beginning of the month and immediately fell in love with its simple text and illustrations. Apparently, everyone else fell in love with it, too, because I've seen it on at least a couple other Thanksgiving lists (and if it's on a couple, well then, you know everyone is reading it). I guess since I rely on book lists so much, I feel a sort of personal triumph anytime I find a really great book on my own. So, for the record, this book find was all mine.

Anyway, enough about my slightly neurotic possessive disorder.  This little board book is a great introduction to the historical events leading up to the first Thanksgiving (the Mayflower, befriending the native people, etc.). Finding a book that talks about the pilgrims and the Indians in a simple enough way for the under-3 crowd to be able to grasp and understand is a rarity. Really almost nonexistent. But this book somehow does it in as few words as I've ever seen but still hitting on all the important points. I actually thought (more or less), as I read it to my kids for the first time, "I have been searching for this particular book my entire four years of motherhood!"

3. Off to Plymouth Rock!, Dandi Daley Mackall, illus. Gene Barretta
The First Thanksgiving is perfect for toddlers, but it is a little too basic for 3-5 year-olds. There are a lot of good thankful books and turkey books for this age group, but again, if you want more of the historical aspect, you're faced with the text-heavy, information-laden books. Seriously, it seems almost wrong to shelf this type of fare alongside Run, Turkey, Run. I'm sure it's great for elementary-school-aged kids (although I'm not entirely convinced they wouldn't find it boring, too), but really there is just no way you're going to get a four-year-old to sit through pages of names and dates and places and events (believe me, I tried).

So it was with great delight that I began reading Off to Plymouth Rock. Each page contains a lilting verse, with an easy, catchy rhythm. It explores some of the difficult issues and events ("Leaving, grieving, still believing" and "Blizzards pounding, Snows abounding"), but in a concise, memorable way. Simple text like this makes for the perfect kind of lead-in to deeper discussion if curiosity arises (for example, "Why were the Pilgrims fleeing?"). But it can definitely stand on its own without any explanations or clarifications. The illustrations, although at times not the most historically accurate or realistic, are nevertheless quite entertaining and complement the text very well.

Last week, I had literally almost given up hope of finding this type of Thanksgiving book when, in a last ditch effort, I put this on hold at the library. I'm so glad I found it. (Notice, I found it. Just giving credit where credit is due!)

4. All for Pie and Pie for All, David Martin, illus. Valeri Gorbachev
I already mentioned Mike's obsession over pie, so is it any wonder that we would gravitate toward a book all about sharing and eating this glorious food?

Grandma Cat makes a pie, and everyone in the Cat family eats a piece. When they are done, there is one piece left over. While the cats are napping, a family of mice split the leftover piece. When they are through, there are six crumbs left, which a family of ants heartily enjoy. The cats, the mice, and the ants all enjoy the pie so much that Grandma Cat decides to make another one.

With the ants eating the pie to the very last crumb, the lessons of resourcefulness and not wasting are conveyed. Also, I like how it shows the pie being savored and so completely enjoyed. And then, of course, it's also gratifying to see the grandma making another pie, so good things don't have to come to an end! :-) Really, it's just a fun, sweet story that will wake up your taste buds.

5. Bear Says Thanks, Karma Wilson, illus. Jane Chapman
It might be in bad taste to admit this on the night before Thanksgiving but...I don't really love the "thankful books." Do you know the ones I mean? There are oodles of them, and they're all about the same: we're thankful for family and nature and friendship and food and blah, blah, blah. They're all so generic and impersonal and do absolutely nothing for me.

But...showing gratitude is one of the reasons why I love Thanksgiving so much. I want Aaron and Maxwell and Bradley to know what it means to be grateful. And it's such a shame that books, which usually come through for me in every situation, kind of fail me in this area. Honestly, reading a little cutesy verse about being thankful for flowers and universal kindness? That does not leave any kind of impression on a two-year-old boy.

I'm telling you all of this so you'll understand why I liked Bear Says Thanks so much. First of all, it's a story with real characters (not some illusive narrator). What's more, it features a familiar character (we've read at least a couple of the other Bear books). In the story, Bear is bored and he wants to make a feast for his friends. Turns out, he doesn't have any ingredients. Luckily, his friends show up one by one, each with something delectable to share. And each time, "Bear says thanks." I love that it shows Bear being thankful for simple physical objects but that the deeper kind of gratitude for caring, generous friends comes through. This is the kind of thankful book I can be thankful for!

But I'm not going to lie...while the text is great and inspires some good feelings, it would be nothing without the illustrations. Jane Chapman's artwork is comfort itself. They are what take this from being a fine, average story to something quite beautiful and a joy to read.

So tomorrow, if you're in the mood for a little reading before feasting, you might give these books a try!

I'm linking this post to the Kid Lit Book Hop and The Children's Bookshelf.


  1. What a fabulous list. You are going to be my go to gal when Baby Whimsy is old enough.

    Happy Thanksgiving :)

  2. My kids love All for Pie and also Bear says Thanks. Thanks for linking up. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

  3. I love your comments about these books. It's true that we do tend to state how thankful we are for our friends, family, blah, blah, blah..., but isn't it a much better message to appreciate the little things on a daily basis? Do you know how many times I have to say "Thanks Mom" in one day to remind my kids to even say thanks? It's gotten so bad that they now say "You're welcome", the little monkeys!!

    We celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada as well, although we do it in October and it's not as big a holiday. I've always wondered about the origin of our Thanksgiving holiday (or did we just appropriate it from the Americans?) lol

    Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop. I really enjoyed reading your post. Don't worry, I won't spread the word about your self-diagnosed neurotic possessive disorder. ;)


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