In these two Thanksgiving-themed picture books, children learn about multicultural holiday traditions, the rules for getting the most out of your meal and the most important Thanksgiving lesson of all: It’s who you spend it with that matters.

The menu’s not important
From feasts on sitcoms to advertisements in magazines, the image of a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal is everywhere this time of year. There is no doubt about what that meal entails: dressing, cranberries, green beans, pumpkin pie – and most important of all, turkey.

But what if your family doesn’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Is it still Thanksgiving?

In Duck for Turkey Day, Jacqueline Jules thoughtfully addresses this topic by way of Tuyet, a young Vietnamese-American girl who is troubled by her family’s unconventional Thanksgiving menu. Tuyet has happily participated in all the requisite Thanksgiving school activities – learned about Pilgrims and Native Americans, made a turkey out of a pinecone – and she’s upset that her family’s tradition veers from the norm.

Tuyet nearly bursts into tears on her classroom’s “story rug” after the holiday weekend; she’s embarrassed to share that her family ate duck . . . that is, until she hears what her classmates had to eat: lamb, enchiladas, even tofu turkey. Tuyet’s teacher explains that turkey is the least important part of Thanksgiving, “as long as you have a good time with family and friends.”

Kathryn Miller’s colorful illustrations realistically portray Tuyet’s range of emotions as she grapples with being different on the most American of holidays. And Jules, who has written 14 children’s books, will convince any child that her family’s traditions have a place in our multicultural nation.

A kid’s guide to Thanksgiving.
Percy Isaac Gifford, the precocious young narrator in Laurie Friedman’s Thanksgiving Rules, knows the secrets to stuffing yourself on Turkey Day: get dressed (in whatever clothes Mom wants); help clean up the house; be nice to your family . . . and then you get to eat! Percy explains these rules in hilarious, energetic rhymes (“After you’re done cleaning, I’m sure you’ll want to EAT. But you can’t do that just yet. First, you have to greet.”). Teresa Murfin’s wonderful illustrations of turkey, pie and Percy’s large family will keep any young reader alert as they bounce along to the story’s climax – the moment of approaching the Thanksgiving buffet.

For some, Thanksgiving has a reputation of being a tedious obligation filled with strained family reunions and mediocre mincemeat, but you wouldn’t know it from Friedman’s guide to enjoying the holiday. And although food is the main event for Percy Isaac Gifford, there are plenty of small lessons squeezed into this delicious story. Percy explains that appreciating your family – especially the ones who prepared your feast – is a “big deal.” Although he wants to give his family members a giant hug after the meal, Percy gives everyone a “light peck on the cheek” to prevent the overeaters from exploding – and shows us how fun it can be to give thanks with loved ones.


Watch a YouTube trailer of Duck for Turkey Day:

Listen to a podcast with Laurie Friedman, author of Thanksgiving Rules.

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