Great Thanksgiving Books for Children

If you’re looking for some wonderful Thanksgiving/Autumn books to read to your children over the rest of this month, below are our favorites (in no particular order). We’ve gone through a giant stack of them this year, and I wanted to remember our favorites. Our library is excellent, so all of these are checked out, but if you don’t have a good library or just prefer to own books, I also made an Amazon widget in my sidebar with all of these books and reviews.

Thanksgiving Is Here!
by Diane Goode

Diane Goode illustrated other books we love, like “Alligator Boy” and “When I Was Young In the Mountains,” so we were not surprised to also enjoy the detail and emotion in her Thanksgiving story. In this book a very large family celebrates a joyful and eventful Thanksgiving and has a lot of fun together. Each picture shows action and has plenty of detail to occupy children.

Mousekin’s Thanksgiving
, by Edna Miller

I love this book’s accurate and pretty pencil and watercolor drawings of animals living through the winter in the snow. The main character, a little wood mouse, finds that all his stores of winter food are gone, and gets hungrier and hungrier until a wild turkey helps him out. Along the way, incidental to the story, you will learn some interesting facts about how various animals store food for the winter, avoid predators, and other interesting facts.

10 Fat Turkeys
, by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Rich Deas

This is a very silly book about turkeys doing silly things, but it also happens to be a counting book and is told in good rhyme and rhythm. Admittedly, there is a fine line between silly and totally annoying when it comes to kids books, but we think this one is fun and it doesn’t drive us crazy when Hannah recites it.

Silly Tilly’s Thanksgiving Dinner
, by Lillian Hoban

Silly Tilly is a forgetful mole lady who has the best of intentions to invite her friends over for Thanksgiving Dinner, but keeps forgetting key things, such as actually inviting her friends and cooking anything. Don’t worry, it all works out in the end. Incidentally the book also has good themes about friendship and is good practice for understanding sequences. Lillian Hoban illustrated the Frances books, if you’re familiar with those.

Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’
by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Maryann CoccaLeffler

A variety of mishaps afflict the Tappletons as they try to cook their Thanksgiving dinner, but when the extended family arrives and the disasters are found out, the family discovers that Thanksgiving can still be thankful and a fun time with family even if you have to eat liverwurst sandwiches. I’d personally rather starve than eat a liverwurst sandwich, but I can appreciate the sentiment involved. (Note: Amazon has a more recent version of this book but with a different illustrator, and to me the pictures look creepy. I like this old version.)

This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story
, by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by March Buehner

This book tells about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe through rhyming and counting descriptions of the children belonging to each group, culminating in the first Thanksgiving dinner’s prayer of thanks. The pictures are clear and colorful.

Three Young Pilgrims
, by Cheryl Harness

Although in the preface the author notes that this book is not a scholarly work, but rather “an illustrated primer,” I think it’s very educational to learn in the context of a well-told story. The book follows a family, the Allertons, who actually were on the Mayflower. The illustrations in this book are wonderful – very detailed and well done paintings. We like the spread that shows a cut-away of the Mayflower so you can see all the little sections and levels of the ship. The book doesn’t pull any punches – Mrs. Allerton and the new baby died during the first winter, and the book talks about that, although tastefully. Ultimately the book ends with the hope and promise of the new world, and gives a short update of what happened to the three Allerton children after they grew up. I think this book would be good for a variety of ages, from toddlers to elementary age kids.

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie
, by Alison Jackson, illustrated by Judith Byron Schachner

A play on “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly,” this book is the silly adventure of an old lady who swallows an entire Thanksgiving dinner, much to the surprise of her family. It’s a little odd, but funny, and the rhyming includes some unusual couplets, such as rhyming “salad” with “pallid.” The pictures are quite expressive and fun.

Goody O’Grumpity
, by Carol Ryrie Brink, illustrated by Ashley Wolff

In this book, the illustrator set a familiar poem in a Pilgrim context, and depicts Pilgrim children following after Goody O’Grumpity as she makes a spice cake. At the end of the book, there is a recipe for spice cake such as the Pilgrims might have made with ingredients they had. We haven’t made the recipe yet, but we’ve enjoyed the poem and pictures.

This Is the Turkey
, by Abby Levine, illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye

This rhyming story tells of Max and his family assembling a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for their family and friends (except the turkey winds up in the fish tank!), and then enjoying each other’s company thankfully.

Over the River and Through the Woods
, by Lydia Maria Child, illustrated by David Catrow

The familiar lyrics of “Over the River and Through the Wood” are illustrated riotously in this fun book. I always thought the song was about Christmas, but this version sets it at Thanksgiving. Each page has a lot to look at and laugh about, and you can sing the words or read it more slowly as you prefer.

In November
, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Jill Kastner

I love the beautiful oil painting illustrations in this book: every time we read it I want to get my oil paints out and pretend I know what I’m doing. Sadly, you’re not supposed to use oils when you’re pregnant. Just as well, since I’m nowhere near good at painting, much as I enjoy it! Anyway, this is a lovely book about the changing seasons and what is going on in nature and with Thanksgiving.

Leaf Man
, by Lois Ehlert

Although it’s not about Thanksgiving really, Leaf Man is about fall leaves and the narrating child’s imagination of a man made out of leaves and acorns and whatnot. It’s very imaginative and creative. Since we have no mature trees in our neighborhood, this book is about as close as my kids came to seeing a variety of fall leaves this year! It’s fun to have the kids pick out the shapes made with the leaves (pictures of real leaves) on every page.

Ox-Cart Man
, by Donald Hall, pictures by Barbara Cooney

“Ox-Cart Man” is another book not about Thanksgiving, but sort of autumn-related. It’s one of our all-time favorite books so I thought it was worth a mention. The story is about a family who makes and grows things together all year long in anticipation of the father taking a cart to Portsmouth Market to sell it all and buy what they need for the upcoming year (surprisingly very little!). The illustrations are great and you will learn a lot about a New England family in colonial times.

A Plump and Perky Turkey
, by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Jeff Shelly

What happens when a town is outsmarted by all the turkeys before Thanksgiving? Why they are reduced to eating shredded wheat for Thanksgiving dinner, of course! This book is a clever, well-written, and original story that will amuse you and your kids.

Thanksgiving Mice!
by Bethany Roberts, illustrated by Doug Cushman

In this book, a group of mice acts out a play about the mice who came over on the Mayflower. I’m sure the real Pilgrims would have disputed the cuteness of the vermin that traveled along with them, but the mice in the book are cute and are disease-free, at least by the looks of them. This is a cute book told in rhyme, but would probably be best for kids under 4 years old.

The Very First Thanksgiving Day
, by Rhonda Gowler Greene, illustrated by Susan Gaber

Another nicely illustrated story of the first Thanksgiving through the eyes of the Pilgrim and Native American children, “The Very First Thanksgiving Day” is told through a layered poem in the style of “This is the house that Jack built.”

Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners
, by Lucille Recht Penner

We are using “Eating the Plates” as our read aloud book, and haven’t finished it yet, but so far I find it’s quite interesting and has manageably short chapters. I like to do some reading that is not picture-focused so the children can learn to listen as they do other things quietly or sit on my lap. There is generally one picture on each spread of the book, so there is something to look at, but it’s not a picture book. So far I’ve been totally grossed out by the description of the vermin infesting the food on the Mayflower. I do not know how ANY of the Pilgrims survived. I would have died out of sheer revulsion! That is because I’m weak sauce, and the Pilgrims were not.

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Last week Amy posted a list of their favorite Thanksgiving books, and it’s different from ours, so check her list out too (I intend to as soon as we get some books returned since we’re over our limit right now).

If you have other Thanksgiving favorites, be sure to leave a comment for us, and if you do a post on Thanksgiving books, leave me a link!

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