Thursday, November 18, 2010

Best Fiction Picture Books for Thanksgiving

This post is my final one on Thanksgiving for the year.  I was hoping to include one on holiday chapter books, but it will have to wait until next year.  There are dozens of fiction stories that take place during the holiday.  These are my favorites. 

The Firefighters' Thanksgiving (ages 4-9) by Maribeth Boelts
The firefighters at Station 1 try all day to prepare for their Thanksgiving meal.  A steady flow of calls prompt them to stop preparations mid-stream which ends with the food spoiling each time. Fortunately, some people in the community leave them a feast of food and note of thanksgiving.  

Why I Chose It:  It tugged at my heart strings when the people came by with food for the firefighters.  I love that this story highlights an important group of community helpers and their sacrifice (daily and on holidays).  This picture books captures a snapshot of life at a fire station (working together, constant interruptions, fighting fires, cleaning the equipment, and so forth) which I appreciate because it helps us think of others during the holidays (and might even prompt some to show some generosity toward our community helpers working during the holdiays).

Thanksgiving Mice (ages 2-6) by Bethany Roberts
A group of four delightful mice put on a play for the animals in the forest.   Using a simple story within a story narrative, the mice work on the set and props.  Then, they re-enact the Pilgrims’ landing in America, their first year, and their bountiful harvest the following year.  Overall, the essence of the Pilgrims experience is shown with some slight mice sized differences. 

Why I Chose It: The illustrations and the simple text are ideal for younger readers.  The basic facts of the first Thanksgiving are presented with vibrant colors. Delightful mice are more familiar to preschools than Pilgrims which makes it more accessible to the audience.  The narrative is also an introduction to theater since it shows briefly the preparation and production of a play. 

The Perfect Thanksgiving (ages 4-9) by Eileen Spinelli
A young girl describes Thanksgiving at her friend’s house and at her house.  Her friend has a “perfect” Thanksgiving with lace napkins, lit candles, and a golden turkey.  In contrast, the narrator’s Thanksgiving includes a burnt turkey, spills, and a smoke alarm going off.   She contrasts the reactions to the meal by family members, their mothers’ appearances, post meal activities, and more.  The theme is whether a holiday celebration is fancy or funky, it can still be memorable and loving.  

Why I Chose It:  The pictures are a creative use of multi-media art (gouache, colored pencils, and collage on craft paper).  The story is well-told.  The theme is worthwhile.   It is conducive to teaching how to compare/contrast using one-to-one correspondence. 

Oh, What a Thanksgiving! (age 5-9) by Steven Kroll
A young boy learns about the first Thanksgiving feast in school.  When he comes home, he imagines (often in parallel scenes) how the Pilgrims prepared and celebrated.  For instance, while he is at the store picking out vegetables (modern world), he pictures himself picking vegetables from a garden (colonial world).  Also, as his family is meeting some neighbors (modern world), he visualizes his family meeting Indians (colonial world). David imagines life being “better” at the first Thanksgiving throughout the narrative, but in the end he realizes they are the same:  an appreciation of family, friends, and home.  

Why I Chose It:  I liked how the author did a then/now comparison of Thanksgiving.  A discussion or activity with that focus is an excellent way to broaden students’ understanding of the original Thanksgiving celebration by relating it to what we do now. 

The Can Do Thanksgiving (ages 5-9) by Marion Hess Pomeranc
Dee’s class holds a canned food drive for the needy during the Thanksgiving holiday.  Dee carefully selects a can from the market and pays for it with her own money.  She is anxious to find out where her can will end up, so she writes on it:  “Dee’s Peas, Oak St. School.”   The church who ends up with the canned goods contacts the school.  Dee’s class helps to serve a Thanksgiving meal to the disadvantaged.  

Why I Chose It:  It is the only book I have come across that was not egocentric (all about MY family).  Instead, this book is about joyfully helping others in the community.  I hope it prompts a family or class to adopt a similar project. 

Thanksgiving Rules (ages 5-11) by Laurie Friedman
Using 10 simple rules, Percy helps children navigate this family and food-filled holiday.  Primarily written in fun poetic quatrains, Percy gives some excellent advice to children in an entertaining manner.  Percy encourages them to cooperate, to help out, and to greet guest as they arrive. He urges them to try all the foods on the buffet, even the one that looks like wood.  The day is finished off with sampling all the desserts and giving hugs to everyone.  

Why I Chose It:  Percy is a fun and amusing character.  The pictures do a great job not only accompanying the text but adding to its meaning, like his reference to an “overeaters special.”   Through his simple rules, Percy learns the best recipe for Thanksgiving. 

Mary’s First Thanksgiving (ages 6-11) by Kathy Jo Wargin
Mary feels lonely and gloomy.  She does not think she has anything to be thankful for. When she shares her feelings with her parents, her father describes the hardships the Pilgrims faced even after the first Thanksgiving feast.  He emphasizes their prayer and gratitude during those first grueling years.  He tells her that the Pilgrims placed five kernels of corn on their plates to remind them of their blessings: beauty and bounty of autumn, love for one another, love for their families, friendship with the Indians, and finally, their freedom to worship God without fear.  As Hannah’s hope is renewed with the Pilgrim’s story, she chooses an attitude of gratitude.  

Why I Chose It: This colonial story has a timeless message that will give hope to many families today.  Even though the family does not have a lot this year, there is hope and gratitude in their hearts.   

The Thanksgiving Door (ages 6-11) by Debby Atwell   
An elderly couple burn their Thanksgiving dinner, so they decide to check if a new restaurant down the street is open.  When they notice the door open, they go in.  The owners are disappointed because they are planning a family celebration, but the grandmother reminds them to be hospitable.   The elderly couple quickly become like family as they feast and dance the evening away.    

Why I Chose It:  Honestly, I got choked up reading this story.  The elderly couple reminisce that the best part of their day was burning their food.  This story emulates the importance of random acts of kindness.   

You Might Also Enjoy These Thanksgiving Fictions

One is a Feast for Mouse: A Thanksgiving Tale (ages 4-8) by Judy Cox
Leftover turkey, cranberries, peas, and gravy are abandoned on the table after the Thanksgiving feast.  A little mouse sneaks out to gather a discarded green pea for his perfect holiday meal.  As he sees all the wonderful foods, he gathers more than he can carry.  He is so distracted that he does not notice a cat sneaking up on him.  When he loses everything except the pea, the mouse learns to give thanks for the little things. 

Turkey Pox (ages 4-7) by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Chatfields are rushing around to leave for Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s house.  As they are driving there, they realize that Charity has the Chicken Pox.  They turn around and resolve to celebrate the holiday at home.  Despite a snow storm, grandma shows up with guests and a unique turkey. 

Turkey Bowl (ages 6-11) by Phil Bildner
Ethan grows up watching the older boys and adults play in their family’s annual Thanksgiving football game (the Turkey Bowl), anxiously awaiting the year he can join them.   When Ethan is finally old enough to play, there is a big snowstorm preventing the arrival of his extended family.  He gets the neighborhood boys together to play when he ends up with an unexpected surprise.


  1. I love this site! My family will tell you I am quite a bibliophile myself. I would be interested in hearing more about the hop of teacher blogs. Thanks for posting! --Lia

  2. These all look like wonderful books, that I think my neices and nephews would all really enjoy during our family get togethers this holiday season.

  3. Thanks for you comment, Lia. Send me your email address and let me know you interest in the teacher blog hop.

    Sablelexi, I hope you can find some of these books to share with your nieces and nephews. I will be posting Christmas ones soon, so check back. :)


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