A harvest of thankful books
Families everywhere will enjoy pausing amid all those turkey fixings to share the meaning and origin of Thanksgiving. For your reading pleasure, we serve up several satisfying books the whole family will relish.
Here's a classic account of Thanksgiving, an introduction for seven- to 10-year-olds, particularly nice because it begins with a broad historical perspective of the Greek, Roman, Jewish and early European harvest celebrations. The Story of Thanksgiving, by Robert Merrill Bartlett, was first published in 1965 and is newly accompanied by Sally Wern Comport's lively, colorful illustrations. The author, interestingly enough, lived in Plymouth in a house built in 1660 by his ancestor, Pilgrim Robert Bartlett.
Did you know many of the things we've believed about Thanksgiving simply aren't true? Pilgrims, for instance, didn't call themselves Pilgrims, nor did they wear tall hats with buckles. Plimoth Plantation is a living history museum now dedicated to reinterpreting the feast of 1621, as well as providing the latest research on the English colonists and the Wampanoag natives. Using this information, 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, is largely illustrated by photographs of an October 2000 re-enactment of the early harvest celebration. This is a thoroughly engaging account for eight- to 12-year-olds.
Preschoolers count their blessings
The little colonists and natives frolicking in this simple counting book are all getting ready for the 1621 feast. For example, two natives are gathering nuts, three colonists are gathering vegetables from the garden, four natives are fishing and so on in This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story. Written by Laura Krauss Melmed and illustrated by Mark Buehner, this one is full of fun yet somehow stately in a childish, playful way, showing beautiful fall colors on brilliant blue-sky autumn days.
One nation, many nationalities
Rivka's First Thanksgiving, written by Elsa Okon Rael and illustrated by Maryann Kovalski, is set in New York City's Lower East Side in 1910. Inspired by the author's own experience as the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Poland, young Rivka is learning about Thanksgiving in school and at the same time trying to explain this American holiday to her family. Her grandmother responds, "It's not for Jews, or we would know about it." Rivka proclaims, "Thanksgiving is for all Americans, Bubbeh. Aren't we Americans, too?" What can Rivka do? Here's a lovely story with unique insights into what it means to be a thankful American.
Thankful for ordinary things
Peepers by Eve Bunting and illustrated by James Ransome, is all about appreciating the wonder and beauty that surround us each day. Here Bunting provides for the older readers of picture books six- to nine-year-olds who just might be starting to take on the sarcastic tones of pre-teens. Each year Jim and Andy help their dad run his New England autumn tours business, making fun of the gawking Peepers (their name for the foliage seekers). But without being preachy or corny, Bunting's story ends with the boys seeing their world in a different, more beautiful light. Ransome's acrylics showcase New England fall beauty in all its glory, with leaves falling on almost every page.
Alice Cary is a writer from Massachusetts who is thankful for her many blessings, especially her wonderful family and friends.