Favorite Thanksgiving Books for Kids

I just realized that Thanksgiving is around the corner and I forgot to get Thanksgiving books from the library.  Oops!  In case you made the same oversight, or if you’re just looking for a list to take along to the library or have some Amazon money to burn, here are our All Time Top Thanksgiving Books for Kids:
I love books that are kind of quirky and full of clever rhymes, but that aren’t weird or trying too hard. A Plump and Perky Turkey qualifies for that distinction. The book tells the story of the people of Squawk Valley, who were “downhearted and depressed” because they did not have a turkey for Thanksgiving and feared they would be left with only “bowls of Shredded Wheat” for their dinner. In order to avoid this horror, the people put up ads for a craft fair to celebrate turkeys and solicit a turkey to be the model for turkeys made of various mediums including, naturally, oatmeal and soap. The turkey outsmarts them all and takes off for the beach and the townspeople are left to learn their lesson and be thankful for their cereal dinner.

The Very First Thanksgiving Day is a great back and forth rhyming book (in the style of the nursery rhyme “this is the house that Jack built” – kids love that kind of thing, but don’t worry, this version isn’t annoying for parents!) about the first Thanksgiving.  I appreciated that the book treats the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians with respect and accuracy while staying totally age appropriate and not letting the details of hardship bog down the theme of thankfulness. The best part of this book are the illustrations, which are wonderful and detailed.

In November has some of the most beautiful illustrations I’ve seen in a book for children.  It makes me want to pull out my oil paints, but reminds me that I’m not a very talented painter!  I love the vibrant autumn colors and the depictions of people and animals full of life and emotion. The text is also great, and is slow paced and thoughtful, as is entirely appropriate for the season.  If I ever find multiples of this book, I would consider tearing pages out and framing them, the pictures are that good.

Thanksgiving Is Here! is a fun and happy story of a huge extended family celebrating together.  The author, 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.

I love Edna Miller’s accurate and pretty pencil and watercolor drawings of animals living through the winter in the snow from her book Mousekin’s Thanksgiving.  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, survive cold temperatures, and other interesting facts.

10 Fat Turkeys 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 books for children, but we think this one is fun and it doesn’t drive us crazy when the kids recite it.  That’s a good thing, since after three or four Thanksgivings of reading this book, “gobble, gobble, wibble, wobble, do a noodle dance” is part of our family lexicon.  It could be part of yours too, if you read this book often enough.  Aren’t you psyched?!

The heroine in Silly Tilly’s Thanksgiving Dinner 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.  If you’re not familiar with the Frances books, you are missing out big time and now you know what to add to your Christmas list!

In Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’ a variety of mishaps afflict the family as they try to cook their Thanksgiving dinner, but when the relatives arrive 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 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.  If you like to teach math concepts through books like I do, you might especially enjoy this book for November.  The pictures have lots of good detail for counting, and you can easily come up with ways to add and subtract things as you go through the pages.

Although in the preface the author of Three Young Pilgrims 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 is, of course, a play on “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly” and this book is the silly adventure of an old lady who swallows an entire Thanksgiving dinner much to the surprise of her family.  In case you have forgotten, the rhyme ends each time with “perhaps she’ll die” and a few people pointed that out to me after I talked about it before, so if you have a problem with reading about the death concept in a funny rhyming context, this may not be the book for you.  I find that my kids aren’t freaked out by it but certainly do whatever seems best for your family.  The ridiculously vast quantities this little old lady packs away in the book are pretty wild, and admittedly the concept is  a little odd, but it’s pretty funny.  The rhyming includes some unusual couplets, such as rhyming “salad” with “pallid.” The pictures are quite expressive and fun.

In Goody O’Grumpity, 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 (and by “yet” I mean, not once in the three years we’ve been reading this book, I’m sorry to admit!), but we’ve enjoyed the poem and pictures.

This Is the Turkey is a rhyming story that 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.  I feel super bad for the family in this story because all they have for Thanksgiving dessert is brownies.  So really, once the turkey is in the fish tank, they might have been better off with the Tappleton’s liverwurst sandwiches described above.  Seriously, who eats brownies on Thanksgiving?  I suppose the idea of the fishtank turkey and the pitiful dessert offerings ought to make me even MORE thankful for the much, much tastier fare we consume on Thanksgiving.  Anyway, it’s a good book.

Over the River and Through the Woods is a great version of the familiar poem and gives a fun twist with the riotous illustrations of a family’s adventures getting to grandmother’s house.   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.

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.  If I was really crafty I would use this book as a spring-board for great seasonal art projects, but I’m not a crafty mama, I’m a reading mama, so we just look at the book instead.  Sorry, kiddos.

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.

In Thanksgiving Mice!, 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.

What did I miss?  Do you have other favorite Thanksgiving story books?

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