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Thanksgiving Reads for Families | Families

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Thanksgiving Reads for Families
Thanksgiving Reads for Families

Hopefully, it is obvious to you that this turkey has a book in its hand. Come to think of it, hopefully it's obvious that this is, in fact, a turkey.

My amateur drawing skills aside, I want to take this opportunity to draw people's attention to some entertaining reads for children and families this Thanksgiving season. 

I know, I know, we only have a week left--but in recommending Thanksgiving reads, I am not talking about "The Turkey" by Dostoevsky (thankfully, there is no such thing) or "The Yams of Wrath" by Steinbeck (again, no such thing...although I'm told there's something similar). These are just some quick, kid-friendly, fireside reads that are sure to delight families as they prepare to celebrate this season of thanks together.

Note: For photos of each book in the order reviewed, see below.

"Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving," by Laurie Halse Anderson

Imagine no Thanksgiving. No turkey, no family gatherings, no cranberry sauce, no sweet potatoes, no pumpkin pie, no Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and...gasp...no football!

Well, if it wasn't for Sarah Hale, a nineteenth-century American writer, teacher, magazine editor, and social advocate, that nightmare would have become a reality. Acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson tells Hale's story in "Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving."

Most people know that President Abraham Lincoln was the one who declared Thanksgiving an official American holiday, but what they may not know is that he did this because a bold, persistent woman by the name of Sarah Hale kept writing letters pushing for it. As a woman living in the 1800s, Hale could not even legally vote--but, as Anderson says, "she was able to influence an entire nation through her writing."

This inspiring story about the power of both perseverance and the written word is exquisitely told through Anderson's fun, witty writing (parents will have a lot of fun reading this out loud to their kids) and Matt Faulkner's creative, tall-tale-like illustrations.

"1621: A New Look at the First Thanksgiving," by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac

Sarah Hale may have made Thanksgiving official, but how did it all get started? "1621: A New Look at the First Thanksgiving," by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, tells the story from the Wampanoag perspective (the Wampanoag were the Native Americans who lived in the Plymouth Colony before the pilgrims arrived).

Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson supplement the informative text with pictures of Plymouth Plantation Museum, which features live reenactments of events and everyday living in the early 1600s, when the pilgrims and the Wampanoag met. The book includes a lot of interesting historical details and should inspire sensitivity to the experience of the Wampanoag, whose place in the history of the holiday we call Thanksgiving we tend to forget.

"Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving," by Joseph Bruchac

Native American author Joseph Bruchac gives us a more uplifting episode in the early history of Thanksgiving with "Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving." He tells us of Squanto, a warrior of the Patuxet people (a branch of the Wampanoag family).

Squanto was captured by English sailors and taken to Europe as a slave. Five years later, he managed to escape and return home. Which of the following do you think he did when he got back?

a) Armed with his ax, bow and arrows, he immediately took vengeance on the English settlers.

b) Afraid of  white men, he spent the rest of his life hiding in the forest.

c) He helped make peace between the pilgrims and their native neighbors and taught the English settlers how to adjust to life in their new home.

The answer is c. Are you surprised?

Wonderfully enhanced by Greg Shed's beautiful illustrations, this tale of community, forgiveness, and understanding will warm the hearts of all who have yet to experience it.

"Boys Against Girls," by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's "Boys Against Girls," part of her series featuring the Hatford boys and the Malloy girls, is really for any time of year--it just happens to take place around Thanksgiving (and culminates in a particularly gross and funny Thanksgiving dinner).

I won't go into the details of the story, since the title pretty much says it all. But if you are a boy or a girl in grades 4 and up who likes stories about pranks, daydreaming girls who want to become actresses, abaguchie monsters, tattle-tale little brothers, and harrowing escapes from small-town bookstores at night, then this book is for you.

Girls will appreciate the "props" Naylor gives to the intuitive wisdom of females. Boys, meanwhile, might just take a liking to her tribute to the more abstract, "forward-thinking" smarts of males.

A word of caution, though: If you do choose to read this on Thanksgiving, make sure you don't read the last chapter until after you've had your meal.

"The Mayflower Treasure Hunt," by Ron Roy

 "The Mayflower Treasure Hunt" is part of author Ron Roy's A to Z Mysteries series. In this one, Roy sends his three young sleuths to Plymouth, MA for Thanksgiving.

Mystery-loving kids will be intrigued by the protagonists' adventures as they search for the sapphire necklace that was stolen from Emma Browne, a Mayflower passenger, almost 400 years ago. Parents and educators will like how Roy uses the geography of pilgrim history to lead the kids to their goal. Finally, everyone should have a little fun trying to solve the hidden message in John Steven Gurney's illustrations.

"Thanksgiving on Thursday," by Mary Pope Osborne

You all know Jack and Annie, right? Perhaps you've even travelled with them--to medieval times, to the age of the dinosaurs, to ancient Egypt, under the ocean, or to the moon!

In book number 27 of her Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne takes Jack and Annie to the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth. They meet Squanto, Governor William Bradford, and other key historical figures, and they get to help prepare the first Thanksgiving feast!

Mouths will water at how much food the pilgrims had to eat. Young readers may also gain an appreciation for how hard everyone worked--even the kids!--to prepare the meal. This Thanksgiving, you may be even more thankful about not having things as hard as they did.

"Three Young Pilgrims," by Cheryl Harness

And now we go back to the picture books. In "Three Young Pilgrims," Cheryl Harness tells the story of Bartholomew, Remember, and Mary Allerton, three little children who came to America on the Mayflower in 1621.

In this book, more than in any of the others I have recommended, you see how hard life was for our pilgrim ancestors when they first arrived. But the hard times made them all the more thankful for each other's company, which made the Thanksgiving feast an even happier occasion than it is for us. Not only was the food delicious, it also gave the pilgrim settlers and the Native Americans who helped them settle a chance to come together as a community and celebrate.

"The Dragon Thanksgiving Feast: Things to Make and Do," by Loreen Leedy

Finally, you have Loreen Leedy's "The Dragon Thanksgiving Feast: Things to Make and Do." Take a look at this for some nifty Thanksgiving craft, recipe, and decoration ideas.

So, there you have it. These are some of my top "picks" for family Thanksgiving reads. Check your local libraries to see if they're available.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all--enjoy your turkey, your pies, and the football game.

And remember: read, read...READ!


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