Saturday, November 13, 2010

Best Picture Books on the First Thanksgiving

This list is for books describing the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrim and and Indians as well as the events that led up to that well-known day. 
The Very First Thanksgiving Day (ages 3-6) by Rhonda Gowler Greene
The Very First Thanksgiving DayFollowing a similar style of a “House that Jack Built” format, the author uses a pleasing rhythm and rhyme scheme to recall the story of the first Thanksgiving feast.  The story begins on the first Thanksgiving Day, but then goes back in a retrospect style to tell about the skillful and strong Indians, the Pilgrims who farmed the land, the houses in straight rows, the harbor marked by a stone, the ship that weathered rough seas, and the ocean that was both friend and foe.  Then in a succinct style and poetic format, the events are recalled once again.  Why I Chose It: The illustrations created with acrylic paints in stunning autumnal hues are noteworthy.  The Very First Thanksgiving Day is useful for younger students who are either being introduced to the holiday history or for a fun review of it.   The details are primarily general, but the language and word play is pleasing. 

Thanksgiving Day (ages 3-7) by Anne Rockwell
Thanksgiving DayThis selection has an interactive and personal approach.  A child recalls what he learned about the first Thanksgiving in his class at school.  He uses the art projects they complete and the play they perform as his frame of reference.  Each child reinacts a part of the first Thanksgiving story.  On the left page is a picture of the child dressed as a character (such as Samoset or Squanto), and on the right side is a scene with the "real" character.  Finally, the children are seen with their families celebrating the holiday.  Why I Chose It:  Thanksgiving Day is informative but concise.  The point of view is a preschooler which makes it appealing and appropriate for young children. This story could easily be adapted for a similar performance in a class or family. 

The First Thanksgiving Day (ages 3-8) by Laura Krauss Melmed
This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting StoryThe author smoothly incorporates a counting book format with short poetic verses, primarily in quatrains, and using a muted rhyme scheme to convey the parallel activities of the Indian and Pilgrim children in preparation for the first Thanksgiving Day.  The activities of the two groups rotate on every other page layout.  Each showing the important contribution children made to this legendary holiday.  It all builds up to the famous feast where Indians and Pilgrims sat together to celebrate the harvest and to give thanks.  The connection of the two groups’ activities may need to be explained to younger children.  Why I Chose It:  The vivid autumnal colors of the illustrations in The First Thanksgiving Day beautifully capture the fall season and the communal feelings of the two groups.  An added bonus is the hidden pictures on each layout.  Each page has a turkey lurking as well as other small creatures look on which many children will enjoy finding. 

Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving (ages 5-9) by Ann McGovern
Pilgrim's First ThanksgivingBeginning with the journey on the Mayflower, the Pilgrim’s first year on their quest for religious and personal freedom is recorded.  The hardships on the boat and the first year are conveyed in an age appropriate manner.  The pictures focus on children and families working together to establish a new homeland and to survive in a new land, which includes descriptions of the homes and their family lives.  In addition, Squanto’s role in making their first year a success is highlighted.  Everything cumulates in the Indians and Pilgrims working and celebrating the abundant harvest together.   Why I Chose It:  Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving is an informative and well-written historical fiction account of the Pilgrims’ first year.  I appreciate that the author points out that despite the hardships, not one Pilgrim returned back to England when the Mayflower returned in the spring.  What a great lesson in perseverance! 

Pilgrim Cat (ages 7-10) by Carol Antoinette Peacock
Pilgrim Cat (Albert Whitman Prairie Books)The harsh conditions of the two month trip on the Mayflower as well as the initial severe winter and bountiful first harvest at Plymouth are described from the perspective of Faith, a young Pilgrim girl. During the voyage to the New World, Faith befriends a stowaway cat who becomes a welcomed distraction from the perilous storms and congested conditions.  On the ship, Faith feeds the cat from her rations of moldy cheese and wormy biscuits.  Like most of the passengers, Faith gets sick, but the cat stays curled up by her side until she is well again.  On land, their friendship continues while the Pilgrims build homes, learn how to farm and hunt from Squanto, and prepare for the first Thanksgiving with their Indian friends.   Why I Chose It;  Pilgrim Cat is just the right combination of harsh reality and of hopeful future.  The relationship with the cat and the perspective of the child is fresh, personable, and engaging.   The pictures offer both a visual of the narrative and of daily life for the Pilgrims. 

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