It’s American Thanksgiving this week, a welcome moment to pause from all the clamor and focus on gratitude.
In the Northland, by Tom Thompson
Every day that I take a walk in my neighborhood, I am thankful for the peace in my small corner of the world that allows me such a luxury, as well as a safe place at the end of the day to lay my head and sleep. The severe struggles afflicting so many in 2016 certainly shine a light on the magnitude of these seemingly ordinary gifts.
Here are five titles full of the comforts of the harvest season, with my wishes for a glad and peace-filled Thanksgiving for each of you…
Sleep Tight Farm, written by Eugenie Doyle, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
published in 2016 by Chronicle Books
It’s December on the farm. Days are short, with long stretches of darkness and a nip — at least! — in the air. It’s time to put the farm to bed.
Springtime and early summer brought a bustle in the berry patches. Mid-summer heat plumped up tomatoes and melons. Early fall saw bushels and bins of potatoes and pumpkins and decorative corn ready to sell at the farm stand.
But now — it’s tucking-in time. Preparing for frost time. Pruning back and stocking up and snuggling in to shelter time. Fires in the woodstove and candlelight in the window. Such a homey, peaceful season for this quintessential, lovely farm.
Author Eugenie Doyle lives on The Last Resort Farm in Vermont, where she and her family grow organic berries, vegetables, and hay. Her love for the land, the rhythms and seasons of planting and harvest, flurry and quietude, simply glows throughout this elegant depiction of a year tending the farm. Becca Stadtlander swathes her country landscapes in a stunning color palette, from the russet leaves on the front end-papers to the chill, snowy, barren trees at the close.
The simplicity, freshness, warm community, and earthy satisfaction of rural life calls forth from every page. It’s the perfect segue from autumn to winter, for ages 3 and up.
Time for Cranberries, written by Lisl H. Detlefsen, illustrated by Jed Henry
published in 2015 by Roaring Brook Press
Once, on my way through Wisconsin, I passed by a cranberry bog in full flood. A brilliant, crimson sea in the midst of the lovely, rolling Wisconsin farmland. It was spectacularly beautiful!
Author Lisl Detlefsen lives on just such a marsh in Wisconsin and has written this fascinating story to explain to all of us just where our cranberries come from. More cranberries come from Wisconsin, she says in her Author’s Note, than in any other state and even the world.
From the “white, crane-shaped blossoms” of spring come cranberry vines laden with berries. At harvest time those beds are flooded and the berries collected with a series of super-cool machines. Follow Sam as he experiences his first harvest and learn all about it. Then whip up a batch of cranberry sauce or cranberry pie with the recipes included in the book.
The striking beauty of the cranberries and the land is captured well by Henry’s illustrations, as well as the warmth of family, working together outdoors and gathering at the farmhouse for Thanksgiving dinner. A unique, intriguing read for ages 3 and up.
Dancing the Ring Shout! written by Kim L. Siegelson, pictures by Lisa Cohen
published in 2003 by Jump at the Sun, Hyperion Books for Children
Toby is old enough to take his place in the ring shout this year. Grand, Toby’s grandfather, has declared it. That means Toby has to bring something into the circle “that speaks from your heart straight to the ears of God,” says Grand.
Grand himself brings his cane, thumping it on the ground to make a sound that echoes in his heart like the hooves of the plow mule breaking the clods of earth in springtime. His cane-thumping is his praise song for their mule. Mam plans on bringing two biscuit pans to clang together, a sound reminding her of the blades of her hoe clearing the corn field, her special sound of gratitude to God.
Toby languishes in worry over what he can bring to the ring shout that will speak his praise to God until suddenly, in the swirl of dancers, drums, and voices shouting out “We are blessed!” — suddenly Toby finds his particular song.
This beautiful, intergenerational story is based on the ring dances first practiced by slaves and surviving today in just a few African American communities in South Carolina and Georgia. The fascinating, rich culture represented by this tradition throbs and pulses in both the exuberant, strong narrative and the hot, tropical colors and bold, abstract shapes of the illustrations. It’s a torrent of joy, for ages 3 and up.
Thank You, God, written by Bradley Wigger, illustrated by Jago
published in 2014 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
The more traditional expressions of thanks in this book — for family and meals, home and the big, beautiful world we live in — are well-phrased, simply, poetically, while the pages themselves are dominated by Jago’s sunny illustrations.
Sophisticated textures, a toasty-warm palette, and a surge of strength mark these pages, but my favorite feature is the inter-racial family that makes this a book welcoming to everyone.
No house of worship is depicted in the book; I think Christian, Jewish, and Muslim readers would all find it suitable for their families. Ages 2 and up.
How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? written by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
published in 2007 by Schwartz & Wade Books
I wonder how many of you make pumpkin pie by cooking up fresh pumpkin rather than opening a can? Myself — I’m not a fan of pumpkin pie. I make pecan. But I did make pumpkin stew in a pumpkin shell for a festive harvest meal a few weeks ago.
Of course, working with a fresh pumpkin means scooping out that mass of stringy, slippery pulp and untangling the snarl of seeds for roasting.
The kids in this story get the chance to scoop out gloop and sort pumpkin seeds as well. Their clever teacher, Mr. Tiffin, has set them an interesting challenge: to investigate the number of seeds in a large, medium, and small pumpkin. It’s an intriguing idea with some unexpected results. I learned some curious facts about pumpkins right along with these kids!
Illustrated with oodles of warmth and friendliness, I think this story will set the wheels a-turning for kids ages 5 and up. Take heed: They’re gonna want to count the seeds in your next pumpkin!
There are quite a few more Thanksgiving titles in the Subject Index under Holidays: Thanksgiving.