hurrah for the pumpkin pie!…a list of five books to celebrate Thanksgiving Day

Looking to grab a book or two from your library before Thanksgiving? Here are five books full of feasting and family. Another list of five is here and an awesome Macy’s parade title is here. 

the story of thanksgiving cover image2The Story of Thanksgiving, by Robert Merrill Bartlett, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

This pleasant overview of Thanksgiving celebrations was written in 1965 by a descendant of one of the pilgrims!

We begin with a quick peek at harvest festivals among the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, and early Christians, before moving on to an account of the Pilgrims. Their first thanksgiving is vividly described — we meet the girls who “turned the spits and stirred the kettles of chowder,” hear the menu and the unusual table manners of the day, and much more. To conclude, there’s a bit about how this holiday has been kept pumpkin muffins from cookingwithmykid dot comthrough the years.

Brief, broad in scope, and interesting in detail, Bartlett’s narrative flows smoothly and simply.  Told by a Pilgrim descendant, it glides right by any tensions –very 1965 in feel — so it’s an uncomplicated read for younger listeners. Music for Over the River and Through the Woods is included, plus a recipe for pumpkin muffins. Yum. Sally Wern Comport created new illustrations for this text in 2001. Her paintings are handsome, full of sculptured people in a glow of light. Poverty and abundance, celebration and thankfulness are beautifully portrayed. This is not a dramatic book, but it’s interesting in a quiet way, for ages 6 and up.

squanto and the first thanksgiving cover imageSquanto and the First Thanksgiving, by Eric Metaxas, illustrated by Michael A. Donato

And here’s that other perspective you’re looking for — the story told from Squanto’s point of view.

Squanto grew up in a Pawtuxet village and learned farming, hunting and gathering skills from his elders, but when he was a young man, unscrupulous English sailors kidnapped him and brought him to Spain. After a stay with some friars there, a voyage to London, and finally a trip back across the ocean, Squanto’s joy at his IMG_20131106_0001homecoming turned to gall. He was met with grim, sickening silence; all he knew had died.

Because of Squanto’s grievous experiences, however, when the Pilgrims arrived he was fully able to help them.  His generous teaching and  liaison work on their behalf were critical to the Pilgrims’ survival, and so it turned out that he and 90 other of Massasoit’s men joined the newcomers for a thanksgiving feast.

Metaxas tells a strong story that will keep readers ages 6 and up turning the pages. Squanto is portrayed as an intelligent, capable, strong man, who is also marvelously patient and gracious. I was surprised, though, to find no author’s note, bibliography, or any source notes. Michael Donato’s illustrations are likewise bold, with a darkness and shadow evoking the tribulations all these people endured. His figures have a sort of religious, iconic look to them, and his compositions strike me as almost mythical, giving the whole book a sober, slightly religious air. I do like this book, but for another take on Squanto, check out Joseph Bruchac’s book, Squanto’s Journey.

thank you sarah cover imageThank you, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale was a remarkable, spunky woman! A widowed mother of five, she was highly influential in her roles of  teacher, writer, and editor. But here’s what we have to thank her for today: 38 years of perseverance to create our Thanksgiving Day.

Award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson portrays the energy and grit of Hale thank you sarah illustration matt faulknerwith a light hand. Her narrator’s voice is breezy and folksy and slightly humorous, yet she rolls out a fascinating account of the trouble our holiday was in, the plucky Mrs. Hale, and the power of her pen and persistence. As Anderson says, “Never underestimate dainty ladies.” Sarah Hale was a force to be reckoned with until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln finally listened to her petitions and made Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Matt Faulkner’s illustrations in ink, watercolor and gouache match Anderson’s style delightfully. The pages are crammed with commotion, just as Hale’s life was crammed with activity. Humor and caricature, decorum and a breathless moving forward, all contribute to a sense of this forceful person. Then there’s his final spread with an entire sweep of different kinds of Americans sitting down together to celebrate — awesome.

But that’s not all folks…two pages of facts tell us more of the history of our holiday, including all those football games, as well as 1863 trivia, and two more pages give a more complete biography of Sarah Hale. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A blast of fresh air for ages 5 and up.

thanksgiving is here cover imageThanksgiving is Here! written and illustrated by Diane Goode

Brrrringggg!! The alarm jangles at a groggy hour, rousting Grandma and Grandpa from their bed. Time to get started on all the doings for an epic family gathering, Thanksgiving dinner.

Stuffing the turkey and peeling potatoes, comforting crying babies and handling thanksgiving is here illustration diane goodeheaps of coats and wraps as more and more and more relatives arrive, is all part of Thanksgiving Day. So much togetherness. So much commotion. So much chatting and music-making and gravy stirring until at last it’s time to gather round the table,  give thanks, and tuck in!

Diane Goode’s chronicle of a typical Thanksgiving Day is stuffed with persnickety aunts and laden with food;  brimming with joyful hustle bustle, and peppered with small moments. Almost all of that is contained in her happy, friendly illustrations. There are few words here, but scores of funny personalities and sweet details to spot from cover to cover.  I love the focus on family, with all the warts and love we bring to one another. Delightful book for ages 2 and up.

thanksgiving with me cover imageThanksgiving with Me, by Margaret Willey, illustrated by Lloyd Bloom

The crowd that’s coming to this house is all uncles. Six of ’em.

It seems this little girl’s mama grew up by the sea in a household with six strapping brothers. And oh, does she ever miss them. She’s obviously told lots of growing-up stories to her daughter, so that she, too, yearns for their company, and we listen in as they reminisce and anticipate the arrival of all mama’s brothers.

Such a dear story, full of those family ties that stretch  and stretch when time and distance keep usIMG_20131106_0002 apart…but don’t break. With dancing feet and outstretched arms, these folks race to embrace one another as our story closes.

The illustrations are what initially drew me to this book. There’s a blowsy, nostalgic quality to them that takes me back to the Little Golden Books and Tibor Gergely’s charming work.  Bloom’s curving, rolling landscapes, his figures exuding vigor, and those gorgeous autumn colors and rural Americana setting make me feel wistful and comfy, both.  So nice. Snuggle together with preschoolers and up for this one.