a list of…five books full of Thanksgiving feasts

I’m bringing you some Thanksgiving titles today, in the hopes you may still be able to nab a title or two at your library before Thanksgiving Day.    

If You Were At…The First Thanksgiving, by Anne Kamma, illustrated by Bert Dodson

How many Pilgrim children were at the First Thanksgiving?  Did they have to take baths to get ready for the big celebration?  If you were there, would you have eaten turkey?  What about cranberry sauce?  Pumpkin pie?  Beer?  How did the children help that day? 

What about the Indians?  What actually happened when the Pilgrims and Indians met for the first time?  Did any Indian children come to the feast?  What did they wear?   What did the Pilgrims and Indians do when they were done eating?

So many questions are asked in this great little book, part of the outstanding Scholastic “If You Were There” series.  There are about 50 fascinating questions and answers, jam-packed with juicy details, adhering to historical facts, yet always brief and to the point.  The content is perfect for kids as young as 5, yet the author never talks down, and includes information of interest to older siblings and grown-ups.  Clever approaches are used, such as a  recipe for pumpkin pie, with comments on each ingredient,  that help us learn what was in a Pilgrim mother’s pantry, and what was not. 

A number of Thanksgiving myths are debunked in this book, corrected by historical research.  Though the first harvest feast celebrated by Pilgrims and Indians was not, apparently, a religious festival, spiritual devotion is not expunged from the book, but carefully included in the portrait of both Pilgrims and Indians.  I especially appreciated the author’s respectful treatment of both these historical groups. 

Dodson’s watercolor illustrations are plentiful, appealing, and very helpful in bringing the historic setting, clothing, buildings, tools, and tasks to life.  This book is well-suited for early elementary level readers, or for reading aloud to kindergarteners and up.

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving, by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Greg Shed

Told from the point of view of Squanto, the Patuxet man of such inestimable help to the Pilgrims, this book is a handsome account of a remarkable person. 

Born in 1590, Squanto was raised to be a leader of his people, but instead was taken captive by a treacherous sea captain and sold into slavery in Spain.  While in Europe, he learned the English language, then sailed back to New England on a British ship to find that virtually all of his people had been wiped out by a disease carried there by the English.  Later, as he worked to maintain peace between the English and Indians, Squanto was again imprisoned, this time by disgruntled Indians.  Squanto’s life was surely marked by suffering, leading up to the pivotal day when he was brought by Samoset to meet the Pilgrims at Plymouth.    

As one who graciously offered his crucial abilities to aid the Pilgrims’ survival, Squanto must have celebrated that famously abundant harvest, not only by feasting, but with true rejoicing .  Yet his vantage point is rarely told.  Joseph Bruchac, who is of Native American New England descent himself, gifts us with this beautiful account, and a helpful Author’s Note reflecting on Squanto’s life and describing the interesting research done for this book.

Greg Shed’s illustrations are rich, gorgeous, paintings, that collaborate perfectly with the story.  Bronze, muscular arms, sun-dappled forests, details of furs, feathers, starched collars and ribbon-trimmed hats bring us an authentic, dignified version of all these different people and their ways of life.

Thanksgiving Treat, written and illustrated by Catherine Stock

Moving on to a contemporary Thanksgiving celebration, one of my favorite author/illustrators presents a warm, loving, extended family, gathering together for Thanksgiving dinner.

Catherine Stock is a genius at painting beautiful, loose watercolors which glow with friendly happiness and warm detail.  This charming account is told by the youngest member of the family, a small boy, about 4 years old.  He arrives at Grandma and Grandpa’s house amidst a swirl of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins.  And what a busy household!  Grandma and Mommy are stuffing the turkey, a circle of girls are busily peeling potatoes, aunts are bustling in the kitchen, older boys are shucking corn, and the men are outside, chopping firewood.

Our little pal wanders from place to place, offering to help, but is only shuffled along to “help someone else.”  Finally, Grandpa spies him, dejected and alone.  And… Grandpa saves the day.  He comes up with just the right task for the two of them; a task which has everyone cheering as evening settles.

This is a perfect story for preschoolers…or grandfathers.  I love it!

One is a Feast for Mouse:  A Thanksgiving Tale, by Judy Cox, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler

Thanksgiving dinner is over…at least, for the human inhabitants of the house.  One, bespectacled mouse creeps out of his home in the cuckoo clock to take a look around.  And what a good thing he does!  Scattered about the long table are lots of yummy Thanksgiving leftovers!  

Mouse’s eye first alights on “a teensy-tiny, toothsome, green pea.”  It’s sitting there, round and perfect.  One pea is just the right size for a mouse feast, he thinks, so he nabs it.  But, as he rolls that pea across the linen tablecloth, he notices…cranberries.  Jewel-toned, glistening, plump, cranberries, simply glowing at him from the silver saucer.  One of those would make a feast, he thinks.  So, he balances one cranberry on top of his one pea, and continues on towards his snug home.

Well.  The table is long.  And leftovers piled here and lounging there can’t help but attract Mouse’s sharp eye as he winds his way down its length.  So, it isn’t long before he has a tipsy, tottering, tower of food, even though he frugally helps himself to only one of everything.  When the family cat appears on the scene, that tower, and Mouse himself, are in dire straits.

Can the Mouse save his delicious tidbits?  Or will he wind up as the Cat’s tasty dinner?  The answer is:  neither.  But, the story does end very happily!  You will have to read to find out how.

This delightful story is illustrated with Ebbeler’s fantastic, colorful, personality-filled, paintings.  Seen from Mouse’s vantage-point at times, from Cat’s viewpoint, and from the tippy top of Mouse’s food tower, the pictures endear us to Mouse, capture all the whisker-twitching tension, and entertain immensely.  It’s a lively, humorous, happy treat for a wide age range, preschool and up!

The Peterkins’ Thanksgiving, Adapted by Elizabeth Spurr, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin

The Peterkins are a harebrained family, invented by Lucretia P. Hale in 1880.  Hale’s classic book, The Peterkin Papers, introduces this group, including Mr. & Mrs. Peterkin, Agamemnon and Solomon John, Elizabeth Eliza, and three little nameless boys, all of them having barely a fig newton of common sense between them, as well as the Lady from Philadelphia, who mercifully provides the wisdom they need to meet such trials as mistakenly putting salt in the coffee.

This story, pleasantly adapted from Hale’s book,  by Elizabeth Spurr, tells the story of the vexing situation the Peterkins arrive at on Thanksgiving Day.   After setting a grand table with linen cloth and silver candlesticks, cornucopia centerpiece and decorative gourds and autumn leaves, the Peterkins seat themselves and prepare for a delicious feast.  Soon they learn, however, that the dumb waiter which holds the entire meal, is stuck between the lower-level kitchen, and their dining room on the upper floor.  What to do?!

The Peterkins manage troubles with the grace of the Keystone Cops, so you can imagine what the results are on Thanksgiving Day.  It’s not until late in the evening, with the help of a sensible carpenter, that the Peterkins at last enjoy their turkey and vegetables and pumpkin pie.

Wendy Anderson Halperin is a dream of an illustrator, whose colored pencil illustrations charmingly picture this eccentric family and all their antics.  This silly, happy story stands well on its own, and may inspire older readers to tackle the full-length book with many more Peterkin family mishaps.

Here are Amazon links for this delicious spread of books:

If You Were At The First Thanksgiving

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Treat

One Is a Feast for Mouse: A Thanksgiving Tale

The Peterkins’ Thanksgiving