Children, parents and teachers alike will be thankful for a cornucopia of new books about Thanksgiving. With humor, history and charm, these four new books explore the holiday and its meaning—and offer a feast for young minds.


Most children (and adults) assume that Thanksgiving has been a holiday since the first feast shared by Pilgrims and Native Americans. Even by the 1800s, Thanksgiving, regarded as a New England holiday at the time, was observed on different days in different states. Sarah Gives Thanks, a picture-book biography written by Mike Allegra and illustrated by David Gardner, depicts the true story of one woman’s efforts to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. It may have seemed in 1822 that Sarah Hale, a widow with five children, had little to be thankful for, but she put her grief aside to feed her family. With limited possibilities for women, she began writing and was soon hired as the editor of two widely read women’s magazines. Hale became a household name and used her notoriety to champion the causes of women’s education and Thanksgiving. After 36 years of rejection from presidents, she caught the attention of Abraham Lincoln, who agreed that a day of thanks was just what a war-torn nation needed. Sarah’s foresight and determination come alive in this well-told tale.


Just in time for Thanksgiving, best-selling author Todd Parr delivers more of his bold, geometric illustrations to preschoolers in The Thankful Book. From hugs and kisses to friends and walks with caregivers, young children and animals express their thankfulness for many of the special things and moments in their lives. Some of the sentiments, such as “I am thankful for my hair because it makes me unique,” encourage self-acceptance, while others, such as “I am thankful for colors because they make me want to paint,” inspire creativity and nurturing one’s talents. Still other thankful notes recognize a preschooler’s sense of wonder, and a nod to Parr’s previous picture book, The Underwear Book, shows appreciation for preschoolers’ desire for silliness as well. Although most appropriate for the Thanksgiving holiday, this joyful book can be used all year long to encourage young children to find gratitude around them.


Fans of Karma Wilson’s wildly popular Bear Snores On and its follow-up picture books will welcome another addition with Bear Says Thanks. As the leaves fall outside his cave, the bear, presumably waiting for hibernation, has grown bored. He decides to remedy the situation with a feast, but discovers that his cupboard is bare. One by one, however, the woodland animals arrive with nuts, fish, muffins, pies and all the makings of a fine dinner. The bear does indeed say thanks for each offering, but soon despairs when he cannot add his own delicious treats to the celebration. The other creatures reassure him that he doesn’t need any food because he already has some of the best things to share—his stories. Once again, Wilson’s bouncy rhymes, complemented by a message of friendship and Jane Chapman’s adorable illustrations in warm, seasonal colors, will delight readers as they prepare for their own Thanksgiving dinners.


Irrepressible first grader Junie B. Jones brings hilarity to the holiday in her latest escapade, Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff). The students in Room One have a chance to win the school’s Thanksgiving prize, homemade pumpkin pies, if they can come up with the best list of things to be thankful for. While the students’ sharing of items, including toilet paper, rainbow sprinkles and exploding biscuits, doesn’t impress their teacher, Mr. Scary, it will elicit plenty of laughs from young readers. So too will Junie’s ongoing rivalry with persnickety May, as well as the classroom feast with friends and family, and the disgusting way the students have concocted to get rid of the unwanted pies if they win. Underneath the incorrect grammar and irreverent humor lies camaraderie among the classmates, a true spirit of thankfulness and connections to the first Thanksgiving. And when Room One gets a taste of the esteemed pumpkin pies, they’re thankful they didn’t waste them after all.

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