Monday, November 9, 2015

25 Thanksgiving Books for All Ages

Authors Note:  I originally published a Thanksgiving book list in 2011.  I wanted to republish this list updated with some new jewels that I have discovered.  My wish is that these books will help create some wonderful memories this holiday season, and remind us all to slow down and be thankful for all that we have.   The links below are amazon affiliate links.  

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  For me the holiday is extra special because it was around this time nine years ago that I first became a mother.  So I have an added reason to be thankful this time of year. 

To help us all get in the mood for Thanksgiving, I recently filled our book basket with some of our favorite picture books for this holiday.  I don't know of a better way to celebrate the holiday season than time spent snuggled up with your children sharing a good book.  It is a surefire way to create some cherished holiday memories for both parent and child.   So--to get you in the mood for Thanksgiving, here are some great books on the topic that you can share with your children.  Some are historical fiction, others celebrate our modern day version of the holiday, and some of just silly and fun--But they are all great books and worth a read!

I hope that you will take time out to make these stories a tradition in your family too!

Thanksgiving Picture Books for Older Kids (And Adults Too!)

I was hesitant to assign an age range to the following group of books.   They require a slightly longer attention span than the books listed above.   However, even adults and older kids will apprecate the beauty in the stories and illustration in these books.  
The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell

 This book is a new discovery for me, and I absolutely CANNOT recommend it enough.  This book is about an older couple living alone named Ed and Ann.  In the book, Ann is making a delicious Thanksgiving feast but then.....poor Ann burns the dinner!   Ann feels just awful.  So she decides to spend Thanksgiving home alone, but Ed is hungry!  So he suggest that they try to find a restaurant that is open.  The only restaurant that they can find that is open is "The New World Cafe" a restaurant run by immigrants.  They enter the restaurant and have a seat in the deserted dining room.  Little do they know, the owners of the restaurant left the door unlocked by accident.  They were planning their own Thanksgiving celebration.  They weren't planning to entertain customers too!  The restaurant owners try to chase the customers away by banging pots and pans at them.   However, the wise grandmother stops them: "Enough!  In old country we bang pots at wolves, not hungry people.  Today is Thanksgiving Day.  Family cooks turkey big as doghouse, but we don't share?  Bah!"  So the restaurant owners include Ann and Ed in their celebration.  There is conversation, laughter, and even dancing at the celebration.  In the end, Ann agrees that burning the Thanksgiving dinner was the best thing she ever did!  This book reminds us that despite our cultural differences we are all people with much more in common than we think!  This book is out of print, but I HIGHLY recommend you search out a used copy of this book at your library.   It is a wonderful read.

The Memory Cupboard:  A Thanksgiving Story by Charlotte Herman

 For young Katie, nothing compares to Thanksgiving at Grandma's house.  However, Katie is heartbroken when she breaks Grandma's cherished gravy boat at Thanksgiving dinner.   It is then that Grandma shows Katie her special "memory cupboard".   This is an excellent book that teaches although we may grow attached to possessions, it is people who really matter.

 Most children know the story of the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.  However, many are not familiar with the story of Squanto--arguably the true hero of Thanksgiving.  In this book, children will learn the remarkable story of the first Thanksgiving from another point of view.

Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness

 This is another living history book that I highly recommend.   It is the story of three young pilgrims named Bartholemew, Remember, and Mary Allerton.  When they and their parents first step down from the Mayflower after sixty days at sea, they never dream that life in the New World will be so hard. Many in their Plymouth colony won't make it through the winter, and the colony's first harvest is possible only with the help of two friends, Samoset and Squanto.

 "Every once in a great while, the hand of God is easy to see, and for a brief moment, fairy tales and history are the same thing.  This is the story about one of those times."  So begins this wonderful account of Squanto's miraculous story.  As a young boy, he was captured, taken to Europe against his will, and sold into slavery.  However, that is not the end of Squanto's story.  Remarkably, he finds his way back across the Atlantic to the land he was born in.  And remarkably, he finds it into his heart to take pity on the English living on his land who he helps.  

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

 This book tells the story of a traditional New England Thanksgiving on a cranberry farm.  The book is a great reminder that we can't always judge 'a book by its cover' and that sometimes appearances may deceive.  Children will enjoy looking for Grandmother's secret and famous recipe for Cranberry Bread which is hidden in the book.  Baking this bread will become a wonderful new tradition for you and your family.

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


Do you think you know everything about Thanksgiving?  WELL, did you know that Thanksgiving was once in danger of "dieing out" in our country?   True story!   This is a wonderful story about how Thanksgiving was saved and became a national holiday.   But really---its a story that showcases the importance of perseverance.    GREAT book!  

This is the Feast by Diane Z. Shore, Illustrated by Megan Lloyd

 This book is written in a lyrical verse which makes it a joy to read aloud to children.  The illustration are meticulous and breathtaking.   Children will really get a sense of what life on the Mayflower might have been like.  

The Pilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock, Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

 This was another book that we checked out and knew that we would one day have to buy.  My daughter loved this book so much, she actually cried when it came time to return it to the library!    The book is a historical fiction which follows a cat who jumps aboard the Mayflower as it is departing England.  The cat is befriended by a young girl named Faith.  The book is richly illustrated and a pleasure to read.  The reader really gets a feel for what life might have been like for a child aboard the mayflower.   If you are a cat lover, you must read this book!

It's Thanksgiving by Jack Prelutsky, Illustrated by Marylin Hafner

We love reading poetry together as a family.  And after checking this book out of the library, I just knew that it would someday become a permanent member of our home library.  This collection of poetry talks about so many different aspects of this holiday--usually in a very humorous way.    This book contains poems about the very first Thanksgiving,  a funny poem about "Dad's football game" after the big meal, a poem about the Thanksgiving Day parade (where it is drizzling...isn't it always drizzling during the Thanksgiving Day parade?!),  and another very humorous poem about the things we do with all of those turkey leftovers.  This makes for a great "Thanksgiving Themed" poetry tea-time.  The words are easy enough that most children can share along with the reading too.

This books makes a wonderful addition to the Thanksgiving day book basket.  It promotes all of the things I love best about this holiday: togetherness with family and thankfulness. 

The Very First Thanksgiving Day by Rhonda Gowler Green, Paintings by Susan Baber

Written in cumulative rhyme, this beautifully illustrated book tells the story of the first Thanksgiving. 

The First Thanksgiving by 

I love the history titles from this series of readers.   We own and have read nearly all of them.   This one is very complete and does a great job of telling the story in an easy to read format.  

Thanksgiving Chapter Books or Longer Read Alouds

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh
(Age Range 5-8,  2nd-3rd Grade Reading Level)

This Caldecott Honor Book recounts the story of the Pilgrims from the time they left England on the Mayflower through the first Thanksgiving celebration.  Written in an easy to read chapter book format, this book is highly accurate and a joy to read.

Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
(Age Range 7-10, 3rd Grade Reading Level)
Clyde Robert Bulla has a knack at capturing historical periods with his exciting retellings.   All of his books are wonderful, and this is no exception.

Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne
(Age Range 4-10, 3rd Grade Reading Level)

I love the Magic School Bus series for beginning chapter book readers.    They also make excellent read alouds for younger kids.   Like the others in this series, this book takes kids on an exciting adventure with Jack and Annie while subtly teaching them about the first Thanksgiving.

Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey
(Age Range 9 and Up, 5th Grade Reading Level)

"Margaret Pumphrey, a school teacher in the early 1900s, compiled these stories for her students, in order to enlarge upon their interest in the lives of the first Pilgrim settlers in America."   This is a wonderful book which will make a cherished addition to your home library.   I highly recommend you buy the version recently expanded by Rea Berg in 2009.   

Thanksgiving Books for Preschoolers

Its actually harder to find good Thanksgiving themed books for this age range than you think!  So many of the books targeted at this age range are filled with anthropomorphic turkeys trying to escape death.   I've always thought that that idea is sort of disturbing for preschoolers.   This list contains none of that nonsense!   Instead, I've tried to capture the truth, goodness, and beauty of the holiday season.  There is a little sillness and fun mixed in for good measure too!   

This is the Turkey by Abby Levin, Illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye

Here's a cute book that I would recommend for younger children just learning what Thanksgiving is all about.   The story begins with Max picking out a turkey at the grocery store.  It goes on to celebrate all that thanksgiving has to offer:  the food, the family, the preparation, and fellowship  This book also reminds us that our holidays don't always have to be perfect to be wonderful!

Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes, Illustrated by Doris Barrette

This is a another great book for very young children and toddlers.  The pictures are charming and inviting, the text is simple, but the message is a good one. 

This is a wonderful book for the preschool crowd.   Told in a fimilar rhyme format, this book introduces kids to some of the common themes often discussed when telling the story of the first thanksgiving.  

Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland

What does it mean to be thankful anyways?  This is a very thoughtful book which emphasizes the true meaning of the holiday.

Thanksgiving Books for Babies and Toddlers 

Here are some high-quality board books perfect for even the youngest book lovers.   I've kept this list short on purpose.   I have noticed that children this age thrive on repetition and often are overwhelmed by too many choices.   So I have picked only the "best of the best" in Thanksgiving books for toddlers.

 The First Thanksgiving: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Kathryn Lynn Davis Board book

This book explain the first Thanksgiving to even the youngest book lovers.   Toddlers will enjoy lifting the flaps while you read to them about the first Thanksgiving.   The sturdy pages will ensure that this book will hold up to the wear and tear toddlers often put on books.   

This is a great book for building vocabulary and teaching your toddler about the sights and sounds of the holiday season.  Roger Priddy combines bright illustrations with "real life" photographs of the objects children are like to see and experience during Thanksgiving.   

My First Thanksgiving by Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola's simple images and gentle text explain the history of the holiday to toddlers.  This book is very well done, and I even caught my older children listening over my shoulder while I read this to my 2 year old!  

Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon

Toddlers will love the illustrations in this sturdy board book.   Babies will love grabbing hold of the shiny, tale feathers in the book.   My two year old loved counting down as we turned the pages and listening to the rhyming text.

This is just a small list of the many fantastic books available on this holiday.   My hope is that this list will help get you started on building your own Thanksgiving book basket.

Thanks for reading!

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