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Thanksgiving Book Roundup

thanksgivingroundupsmall Thanksgiving is nearly here, and we all have so many reasons to be thankful.  For one, there are really great books for our children.  Another? There are really great books about Thanksgiving for us to sit and read with our children as the tryptophan coma wears off.  We’re featuring some books ranging from factual to fun for families to enjoy during this warm and cozy holiday season.

 

 

 

 

The Thanksgiving Story

by Alice Dalgliesh

thethanksgivingstoryThe Thanksgiving Story is a Caldecott Award-winning text that’s full of accurate and kid-appropriate information about the first Thanksgiving.  Dalgliesh shares the story of a pilgrim family’s difficult first year at the Plymouth Colony.  While many children will know the basics of the Thanksgiving story, Dalgliesh stirs up curiosities and gives additional details to satisfy them by sharing the experience from the children’s point of view.   The illustrations by Helen Sewell are warm, simple, and evoke primitive folk art, but they have a modern quality that appeals to modern youngsters (and their parents).  We see the seasons change as the Hopkins family endures a difficult year, and we learn how Chief Massasoit and the Wampanoag people were integral to the survival of the colonists.  This all ends, of course, in the first Thanksgiving feast.  Children will enjoy the really interesting details in the story and illustrations, and the children’s perspective really makes it all the more attainable to young readers.

 

giveandtakeGive and Take

by Chris Raschka

While not explicitly about Thanksgiving, Chris Raschka’s newest book, Give and Take, is the perfect setup for having a conversation about the holiday and what it means.  This harvest-time fable about a farmer and two little elves, named Give and Take, will teach children the benefit of sharing and finding the middle ground… and appreciating the results.   As always, award-winning author Raschka’s illustrations are bold and animated, but at the same time, they’re comfortable.  Give and Take are impish looking, and they both live up to their names.  The farmer is easily persuaded by each.  He gives away his entire crop at Give’s urging.  Then he takes a kind pumpkin farmer’s crop at Take’s urging, even though he doesn’t even care for pumpkin.  He sees how both extremes impact the farm and all creatures it supports, including himself.  That is, until he sees Give and Take fighting one another and has an idea for how to balance giving and taking in the form of working together and sharing.  All enjoy a tasty, tasty treat as the grand payoff, much like family and friends all enjoy a communal Thanksgiving feast!

 

thankyousarahThank You, Sarah:  The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Did you know that it was very likely that the celebration of Thanksgiving would have died out completely in the 1800s?  Imagine the sadness of no pumpkin pie, turkey, a couple days off work watching football or shopping for holiday gifts?  Well, you don’t have to, and it’s all because of one fiercely determined woman named Sarah Hale.  Thank You, Sarah tells this little-known and interesting story.  It took Hale nearly 40 years leading a movement and writing many letters to Congress and other politicials, but she was determined not to let the Thanksgiving holiday die out.  In 1863, President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, phew.  This text is full of interesting history and shared it with great humor and fun, making it a really fun way for kids to learn about what the country was like and how this one tough woman’s perseverance paid off.  It’s also a great opportunity to reflect on the historical timeline between the first Thanksgiving and our current celebrations, with sociological/anthropological and political changes on all points of the line.  Bonus points to this book for demonstrating a woman’s ability to make change even when society wasn’t very friendly to women.  Reading this book with your kids will surely inspire them to think of Sarah Hale while they’re hiding a piece of pie under a mountain of whipped cream.

 

petethecatthanksgivingPete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving

by James Dean

Yes!  Even this cool cat celebrates Thanksgiving.  Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving is a great lift-the-flap book featuring this holiday.  It’s a lot of fun for kids, but this is not your usual, silly Pete book.  It’s a little more serious, and it’s got some little kid-friendly history and facts.  You won’t be walking around singing whatever new song Pete has shared (because there isn’t one), but your preschooler or kindergartener will learn about history and the holiday with a favorite blue feline friend.  This is a great introduction to the history of Thanksgiving for the younger set, and it’s sure to please with the surprises hiding behind flaps on every page.

Otis and the Scarecrow

otis

Otis and the Scarecrow

by Loren Long

Fans of Loren Long’s popular Otis series have a new seasonally-appropriate book to read!  Otis and the Scarecrow is Long’s seventh book featuring a beloved, sensitive tractor and his friends on the farm.   All are beautifully illustrated and give wonderful models for social and emotional behavior.

In this story, Otis discovers a new friend on the farm.  It’s a sourpuss scarecrow that stands in the middle of the field, all alone.  The animals and Otis are at first confused by the scarecrow ignoring them and put off by the way he looks and smells, and they eventually give up on him because of his lack of interaction.

Seasons change, the friends play together like they always do, and the loner scarecrow stays the same.  All alone.  Still frowning.  One rainy autumn day, Otis and his animals friends are playing a game at the top of the hill.   It’s “the quiet game,” which gives Otis a still, silent opportunity to look at the scarecrow in the distance.  When the game ends (he wins, of course!), he puffs over to the scarecrow and stays beside him.  He doesn’t want him to be alone anymore.  More importantly, he doesn’t want him to be lonely.  All of the animal friends follow Otis and join him, huddling around the scarecrow and feeling happy to be a friend to even the grumpiest, quietest loner on the farm.

While the story doesn’t feature much action or resolution, it does feature compassion and kindness.  Whether or not the scarecrow changed his ways, Otis and all the animals decided it was better to take the first step at friendship than sit off by themselves and ignore that quirky character from afar.  Otis is a great leader and example of how we want children to behave, and this gentle story gives them a chance to see themselves in the situation.  There is no injustice done by the scarecrow — he is not mean or rude — and this is key to helping children see the moral in the story without being caught up in “the rules,” as often happens.  The scarecrow is just different and is someone who is hard to figure out, but Otis and his friends show that it’s always best to give people a chance.  Even if there is no new friendship born of it, the act of kindness itself brings happiness.

The book itself is large and beautiful.  This makes it a great read aloud option and a wonderful book for young children to read to themselves.  The illustrations are rich and lively, and given their size, they allow the reader to be even more immersed in Otis’ warm, comforting world.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

goldilocksGoldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

by Mo Willems

Many people love author/illustrator Mo Willems for the wit and humor in his fun Pigeon books or the sentimental Knuffle Bunny, but our family most enjoys his lesser-known titles.  Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct is a top 10 read aloud in our household.   When I discovered Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, I was psyched to see yet another dinosaur-related book from Willems.

The title clues you in that this will be a re-telling of the classic fairy tale.  A great way to capture kids’ interest is to make them laugh by reading the title, alone.  Check!  Another great way to capture kids’ interest is to feature dinosaurs.  Check!  Before you open the book, they’re already curious and giggling.  And, of course, it doesn’t stop there.

Instead of meeting a bear family, we meet a mother and father dinosaur.  Where’s the baby in this version of the tale?  He’s been replaced by the very random “some other dinosaur” who is visiting from Norway.  Cue the giggles!  Willems tells the story with playful  irony.  The dinosaurs were “definitely not hiding in the woods waiting for an unsuspecting kid to come by.”  The “poorly supervised” Goldilocks thinks she hears the dinosaurs yelling at one another regarding her demise, “but that could have been a rock falling.  Or a squirrel.” She’s a girl on a mission, and she thinks she’s going to the three bears’ house like the story is supposed to go.  Yet…

Everything she sees in the house is scaled HUGE (you know, they’re dinosaurs), but naive Goldilocks pays no mind to that being out of the ordinary.  She smells chocolate pudding, which is much more appealing than porridge, no? After gorging on pudding, she needs to have a seat.  All the chairs were far too tall for her, and she decides to rest in the bedroom.  She gets a little irritated when she sees that even the beds are huge and couldn’t possibly be for bears.  Yet she sticks around until she finally hears what is “either a passing truck or a Dinosaur gloating, ‘A few more minutes and she’ll be asleep!  Delicious chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbons are yummier when they’re rested!'”  Kids reading along or listening to the story will have slapped their heads 14 times by now because of Goldilocks’ obliviousness.  But they will cheer as it finally clicks for her!  She takes a minute to look around, realizes where she is, and then she bolts to safety.

The silliness of the re-tell is obvious and fun and quirky, but a real bonus in this book is the background humor in the illustrations.  Searching for jokes in the wall art, decorations, signs, etc., is a great activity for repeated reads.  Older, nerdier kids will love the Science and Geography jokes — like the wall calendar that says, “Norway – ‘Gateway to Sweden;'” and a basketball team poster in the bedroom features a dinosaur in a sweatband with the text, “Go Asteroids!  Feel the Boom!”  Aaaaah, extinction humor!  There are many little funny surprises in this book, and it makes it very enjoyable for kids and adults.  While the target audience for a read aloud is usually preschool-first grade, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is a great selection to read to most school-aged children… especially if you’re very good at faking a Norwegian dinosaur accent.

 

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