I am thankful for books. Also, I am thankful for the ability to use them to teach, to entertain, and to deepen my children’s love of reading. I hope one of these books about Thanksgiving strikes a chord with you and your family and can be used to teach, entertain, and deepen a love of reading at your house too.
You may be wondering where the books with Pilgrims (other than The Awful Pete the Cat book) are and I may anger you with my answer.
I have never taught about Thanksgiving focusing on the Mayflower, or Pilgrims, or Native Americans, because, the history of it all is often not accurate or developmentally appropriate. Education evolves and one thing we are learning and should have learned many years ago is that a holiday for some or even many can and is hurtful for others. That doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t celebrate, though maybe you won’t.
What it means is as teachers we must be mindful and I have decided not to celebrate Pilgrims and colonialism here on my blog out of respect for people who have been and continue to be harmed. I do think that teachers need resources and we need to recognize holidays that are culturally relevant to our students so I struggle with Thanksgiving. Ultimately I have decided for now to talk about the togetherness, families, fall harvest… but my position may evolve still. What I do know is that learning about Native American / Indigenous cultures should not be only done in November. If you need book resources I know of no better resource than Dr. Debbie Reese. Visit her site here.
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A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman is such a cute and funny book about a town that needs a turkey and the hilarious lengths they go to to find one. The turkey outwits the townfolk and they end up eating shredded wheat for thanksgiving. The illustrations kept my little man interested when he was a toddler but he only started understanding the dark humor at around 4. I love this book because of the humor makes me giggle. My son was a little off-put by the idea of the townsfolk eating the turkey and was relieved when he escaped before they shoved him in the oven. I like that he is starting to understand that the meat he eats is actually a cooked animal. We take that for granted but for many young kids, this is a huge realization!
Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving by Kimberly and James Dean was underwhelming and I usually adore Pete The Cat. Sadly this book didn’t live up to my expectations. My daughter liked it but wondered when Pete was going to sing. He doesn’t. There are no catchy repetitive refrains which is what we love about Pete! My son pointed out the flaws in the history which thrilled me because they were distracting. The target audience is younger than my son so it may not even be an issue for you. Seeing a pretty little house as the shelter the Pilgrims had for the first winter irked me. I realize that Pete is a cat who is in a play so realism isn’t expected but I’d be lying if I said I loved it.
10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston was a classroom favorite, it’s about as silly as a book gets and the kids had no clue they were actually learning about subtraction while listening to the crazy rhymes. This won’t explain the pilgrims or talk about the Mayflower, but it will make your kids laugh! And that brings extra reading fun to Thanksgiving books for kids.
Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes delighted my whole family. I read it at dinner and all four of us thought the book was spot on. It’s not a story so much as a glimpse at all the things kids in an average family have to be thankful about. The illustrations by Doris Barrette are stunning. I want to frame them. I think this book does a great job at teaching children what they have to be thankful for and how everyday things can be something to be thankful for. Kids will relate so well to this book and because of that, the message comes across loud and clear. My son loved that there is space on the last page to write what he is thankful for. Great find.
Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey was such a treat to read. It’s a reworking of the classic Christmas poem, with a Thanksgiving twist. A bus full of kids heads off to the turkey farm the day before Thanksgiving. The kids immediately fall in love with the birds. When a child asks the farmer what the ax by the door is for; well let’s just say the truth comes out and the kids fall apart. They don’t stay down for long though. The kids outsmart the farmer and their teacher to save the turkeys from the ax. Somehow the author finds a way to make the possible slaughter of these happy friendly, named turkeys funny. My son was giggling while I was kinda nervous that they’d get the ax! Great rhymes throughout this hilarious book!
You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie by Amy E. Sklansky is a cozy book that will have you craving a pumpkin spice latte for sure. Its simple rhyming text is a good length for toddlers but older preschoolers will enjoy it as well. The books show babies and their parent(s) in all different fall settings from the pumpkin patch to snuggling by the fire and of course eating pumpkin pie. The illustrations by Talitha Shipman are perfect and showcase a diverse set of families. Lovely book but don’t think I was joking you will be aching for a fall treat after reading it.
Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’ by Eileen Spinelli is a really cute story that offers many opportunities for parents to talk about lying, disappointment and what really matters at Thanksgiving. Doom looms over the Tappleton’s Thanksgiving dinner. First, the turkey falls in the pond. Then the bakery has no pies and things get worse. No one wants to be the person who ruins the holiday dinner. They keep it a secret that the part of the meal that was their responsibility fell apart. Of course, this means they end up eating liverwurst and pickles for dinner. Grandma saves Thanksgiving by reminding them it doesn’t matter what they eat but who they eat with.
Thanksgiving Treat by Catherine Stock is a really heartwarming book that will take you back to family gatherings of your childhood. The story follows the Thanksgiving day preparations of an extended family and one little boy who just wants to help. He goes from one job to the next where he is too little, or it’s too dangerous for him, and to go somewhere else. Finally, his Grandpa steps in with a very important job and the sad little boy has new hope to help.
I remember being too little. I know that from time to time my son is told he is too little, too. This book is a kind reminder of finding ways to make even our littlest family members feel important and included. My son really liked it as well. While reading it today, he stopped me and listed some of the things he is still too little to do, and the things that he has recently been able to do independently. A great book to sit down and talk about with your child. These are the kind of Thanksgiving books for kids that make you think.
Thanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland is a book that explains what Thanksgiving is, and gives lots of examples of things to be thankful for. I like this book although I could go without the page where the narrator is thankful for lollipops. All the other things are wonderful like a teacher’s encouragement, grandma’s hugs, and sunny days. To me, the lollipops sorta fall flat. Easily skipped over if you are not keen on it, but the book as a whole is a valuable teaching tool about Thanksgiving.
*Edited 2012: My kids love this book and I have no clue why I was so uptight about the lollipops?! I have chilled out as a mom I guess. Both my kids list what we think of as “little things” like lollipops as things to be thankful for and that’s great. As a parent, I want them to appreciate, even if you lump lollipops in with bedtime snuggles and family time.
What are your favorite books about Thanksgiving?