In our home, we like to switch gears near major holidays and set aside a few days to learn about the history and traditions that we’re about to celebrate, especially when they have roots in our faith tradition. In this case, I like to take a few days before Thanksgiving to read about the Pilgrims (the Separatists) and other books about family, hospitality, and gratitude.
This is not a list of every Thanksgiving book I could find–or even of every Thanksgiving book that I own. These are my top choices–the ones I always grab first, the ones I actually enjoy reading aloud, the ones that have a story that captures our imaginations and not just paragraphs of information. These are not the politically correct “Turkey Day” books or the feminist books that are included in so many Thanksgiving book lists.
These are all children’s picture books, but I’ve divided them by shorter books that I, personally, read in one sitting and longer books that I spread out over a few days.
Shorter Picture Books
- Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas
My all-time favorite, this story gives me goosebumps thinking about God’s providence in the life of Squanto and to the Pilgrims through the person of Squanto.
- The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell
Maybe it’s because it reminds me of my own immigrant relatives in NYC, but I love this story of an elderly couple with a burned Thanksgiving dinner who find themselves the uninvited guests at an immigrant family Thanksgiving celebration.
- Mousekin’s Thanksgiving by Edna Miller
This sweet story follows Mousekin as he searches the forest for his stolen food supply and befriends a turkey. Check your local library system; prices on this out of print little gem vary wildly online.
- Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin
This is a fun story of Thanksgiving hospitality with a little intrigue and a secret recipe. This is my personal favorite of the Cranberryport books by the Devlin duo.
- Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
This touching story tells of a Russian Jewish girl who brings her homework–a Pilgrim doll–to school dressed like her mama instead of a 17th century pilgrim. (Tip: Both this book and Cranberry Thanksgiving are included in the BJU Press 4th Grade Reading, 3rd edition, textbook, along with another good book Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters, which includes photographs of Plimoth Plantation.)
- Sharing the Bread by Pat Zietlow Miller
This short, rhyming book recounts all the tasks of various family members working together to prepare an old-fashioned Thanksgiving meal.
Longer Picture Books
- The First Thanksgiving by Lena Barksdale, illustrated by Lois Lenski
In this, my favorite longer Thanksgiving story, a grandmother shares the story of the First Thanksgiving with her grandchildren during their big family gathering on Thanksgiving day. It has a surprise ending. This one is out of print but can often be found for a reasonable price online. Check your library for this out of print gem!
- The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh, illustrated by Helen Sewell (who also did the original illustrations for the Little House books)
This lovely Caldecott Honor book tells the story of the First Thanksgiving by following three Mayflower children–Giles, Constance, and Damaris Hopkins.
- The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower by P. J. Lynch
This exquisitely illustrated tale tells of the boy John Howland and his journey from London and across to the New World on the Mayflower.
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