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Friday, November 20, 2015

Talking Turkey: Books for Thanksgiving

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

It's almost time for turkey! (Or ham or whatever it is that you like to eat on Thanksgiving Day. I know I'm especially looking forward to the pie!) I always like to get ready for holidays by reading books about them. Earlier this month I brought home a big stack of Thanksgiving books from our local library. I read through them all and picked out the ones that I enjoyed the most, shown below, to help you and your family get into the holiday spirit:

Picture Books:

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,
written and illustrated by Charles M. Schultz, 2002

This book is based on the animated television special A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving that first aired in 1973. I remember watching it every year as a young girl. In the story, Peppermint Patty invites herself and some other friends to Charlie Brown's home for Thanksgiving. Little does she know that the only things Charlie Brown can "cook" are cold cereal and toast. With the help of Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock, he comes up with an unusual Thanksgiving dinner that the friends will never forget!

For me, celebrating with the Peanuts gang (whether in book or movie form) is a Thanksgiving tradition, both amusing and sweet.


The Great Thanksgiving Escape,
written and illustrated by Mark Fearing, 2014

Gavin is ready for another boring holiday with his relatives, but his cousin Rhonda has a different idea. "Sometimes," she tells him, "you have to make your own fun." Can they make it through the Hall of Aunts or the horde of zombie teenagers? Or will they be captured before they've had a taste of freedom?

Although I can't relate to the whole "boring holiday with relatives" premise (because spending Thanksgiving or any other day with a houseful of my relatives has always been something I look forward to), this story cracked me up! I especially love Fearing's hilarious illustrations.


Fat Chance Thanksgiving,
written by Patricia Lakin
and illustrated by Stacey Schuett, 2001

Carla and Mama move into their new apartment. Every day, Carla dreams of being just like the smiling Pilgrim girl in her favorite book, surrounded by family and friends at a big Thanksgiving feast. "Fat chance," Mama says. Their apartment is tiny, Mama doesn't have much money, and their loved ones live far away. "Let's be thankful for what we do have and not wish for the impossible." But Carla wants this so badly -- and she has an idea of how to make it work...

I found this to be a charming story. I particularly appreciated Carla's positive outlook on life and her determination to make her dream come true. 


A Thanksgiving Celebration,
written by Jackie French Koller
and illustrated by Marcia Sewall, 1999

According to the author's note at the back of this book, "Long before the first Pilgrim set foot in the New World, Native Americans were celebrating rites of thanksgiving [...]. Nickommah was the name given by the Narragansett Indian Tribe of present-day Rhode Island to these celebrations." This story describes such an observance. A glossary in the back provides definitions for the many Narragansett words used throughout the book.

Koller's poetic language and Sewall's richly-decorated illustrations combine to create a book both compelling and educational.


A Thanksgiving Wish,
written by Michael J. Rosen
and illustrated by John Thompson, 1999

Every Thanksgiving, Amanda's family has gathered at her grandmother Bubbe's house. It was Bubbe's special holiday and she would spend the entire month of November getting ready for it. Amanda's favorite part was always at bedtime, when Bubbe let Amanda choose a wishbone to make a Thanksgiving wish. But now her grandmother has passed away. Amanda's family gathers together, but nothing is the same. And Bubbe is not there this year to share a wish.

This is a sad yet heart-warming book. I recommend reading it with some Kleenex close by! Thompson's stunning paintings complement the story well.


Early Readers:

Annie and Snowball and the Thankful Friends,
written by Cynthia Rylant
and illustrated by Sucie Stevenson, 2011

Annie loves Thanksgiving. There is a big table at her house and she wants lots of people around it this year for the feast. But Annie just lives with her father and her rabbit, Snowball. Who can she invite to share the holiday meal with them?

This book for beginning readers shows how special it can be to include those around us in our holiday activities.


The Thanksgiving Beast Feast,
written and illustrated by Karen Gray Ruelle, 1999

Thanksgiving is Harry's favorite holiday, and Emily's, too, because they love the food. When their mother explains that the holiday is also about giving thanks, and teaches them about the first Thanksgiving, the siblings come up with an idea to share a feast with some unusual guests, their neighborhood wildlife.

I liked this book because the story reminded me of my own kids. I can just picture them going along with Harry and Emily's idea! I also enjoyed the gentle humor that Ruelle included throughout.


The Know-Nothings Talk Turkey
written by Michele Sobel Spirn
and illustrated by R. W. Alley, 2000

The Know-Nothings -- Boris, Morris, Norris, and Doris -- are not sure how to celebrate Thanksgiving until Doris reads about it in a book. She explains that many people serve a turkey dinner. But how can they serve the turkey his dinner if he won't even sit down?

This is a fun, silly book that kids will love to read. It will leave them (and any adults listening or reading along) laughing!


Middle Grade Nonfiction:

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving,
written by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac,
photographs by Sissie Brimberg and Cotton Coulson, 2001

From the book's inside front cover: "Taking a new look at Thanksgiving means putting aside the myth. It means taking a new look at history. It means questioning what we think we know. It means recovering lost voices -- the voices of the Wampanoag people. True history includes the voices of all its participants. Read, listen, and think about our shared history."

I was fascinated by this book. I'll admit, I had never looked much beyond the myths of Thanksgiving before. I learned so many things about the Wampanoag people and the true history of Thanksgiving from these pages. I also enjoyed looking at the photographs, taken at Plimoth Plantation in 2000, when several hundred people (including over one hundred Wampanoag) gathered there to reenact the 1621 harvest gathering.


Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and
Praise Songs of Thanksgiving,
edited and with reflections by Katherine Paterson
and illustrated by Pamela Dalton, 2013

This special book contains over 50 prayers, poems, and songs from a wide range of cultures, religions, and voices, including Desmond Tutu, e. e. cummings, John Wesley, and Wendell Berry. Combined with Dalton's gorgeous cut-paper artwork and reflections from Paterson, this book is one I would love to add to my collection! I know that I would turn to it again and again -- and not only in November.


My Very Own Thanksgiving:
A Book of Cooking and Crafts,
written by Robin West
and illustrated by Robert L. and Diane Wolfe (photos)
and Susan Slattery Burke (drawings), 1993

The recipes in this book are divided into five different menus: Harvest Feast, Take Pity on the Turkey, Set Sail on the Mayflower, The Big Game, and We Gather Together. They include several easy recipes for beginners, plus some more-advanced recipes for kids and parents to work on together. I have not had a chance to try any of the recipes yet, but there are several that caught my eye. I plan to make a few next week!

In between recipes you will find step-by-step instructions for five cute Thanksgiving crafts, as well as stories, Thanksgiving facts, and ideas for fun games to play over the holidays.


written by Ellyn Sanna, 2005

This cookbook contains 17 delicious-sounding recipes for your holiday feast as well as information about Thanksgiving culture, history, and traditions. Again, I found some recipes inside that I am putting on my menu for next week!

I found this book in my library's middle grade nonfiction section. In my opinion, however, this one seems like it belongs more in the young adult or adult section. Younger children can certainly help out with these recipes but -- with the exception of the Cranberry Nut Snack Mix recipe -- I wouldn't recommend allowing an elementary school child to try making them on his/her own.


For even more books about Thanksgiving, here are links to my posts from previous years:

Celebrating Thanksgiving With Books
A Feast of Books for Thanksgiving

Have you read any of the books above? If so, I'd love to hear what you thought of them. Also, please share any of your favorite Thanksgiving books that you don't see here -- I am always looking for new ones to read! :)

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