Thursday, November 11, 2010

Best Thanksgiving Non-Fiction Books

This list is focused on non-fiction books about the Thanksgiving holiday, including the historical background and modern day celebrations. 

Thanksgiving (ages 2-6) by Brenda Haugen
This non-fiction selection briefly covers the history and customs of the holiday.  It begins with a brief description of Thanksgiving celebrations today.  Then, it goes back to explain how the holiday originated with the Pilgrims, Squanto, and the Indians.  The first Thanksgiving celebration is concisely described, including both the food and the activities.  Finally, it circles back to modern day celebrations.  

Why I Chose It:  It is a simple overview of the major areas to cover for this holiday, ideal for preschool to first grade children.  The pictures are colorful and appealing for this age group.  * Best Choice for Preschool Aged Children

Thanksgiving is... (ages 3-7) by Gail Gibbons
Young readers will enjoy this journey through the history and traditions of Thanksgiving.  It begins with some brief references to ancient and medieval harvest celebrations.  The Pilgrims and the development of the holiday are also mentioned.  The majority of the book focuses on aspects of modern day Thanksgiving celebrations, such as decorations, family, friends, food, giving, games, plays, parades, sharing, and remembering.  

Why I Chose It:  The colorful cartoon pictures and short descriptions are ideal for younger children.  *Best Overall for Primary Grades

Celebrate Thanksgiving (ages 4-8) by Deborah Heiligman
This selection is part of the National Geographic Holidays Around the World series.  Using stunning color photographs of people of various cultures and short vignettes, an overview of the holiday is given which includes the first thanksgiving, how it became a holiday, popular foods, cultural variations, religious connections, and modern day celebrations.  Additional information at the back of the book includes a Native American Thanksgiving Prayer, Timeline of American Thanksgiving, recipe for Cranberry and Peach Preserves, additional books and websites to check out, and more.  

Why I Chose It:  The wonderful photographs capture the traditions and joys of the holiday.  It is a brief but engaging overview.  *Best Choice for Illustrations 

Thanksgiving Day (ages 5-10) by Mir Tamim Ansary
Uses paintings, photographs, and engaging text, a thorough introduction into the holiday’s origins and celebrations is presented.  Topics included are modern day celebrations, the first Americans, Pilgrims and their search for religious freedom, Puritans religion, the challenging first year, the first good harvest, and the first Thanksgiving celebration.  Also included is how Thanksgiving developed into an official holiday.   Each topic is covered well.  

Why I Chose It:  It provides a more detailed narrative overview of the holiday than the previous two selections.   The text is well-written and informative.   This book aptly conveys the importance of the holiday.   *Best Combination of Illustrations and Text
Thanksgiving: Why We Celebrate the Way We Do (ages 6-12) by Martin and Kate Hintz
Divided into six separate chapters, the areas covered are thankfulness, history of thanksgiving celebrations, Pilgrims and the first American Thanksgiving, how the tradition grew, and how it is celebrated.  The final chapter offers suggestions for things to do for Thanksgiving which include preparing cornbread, making a paper turkey, feeding the needy, and giving thanks.  There are references to other North American celebrations found in Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The appendix includes a glossary, additional resource suggestions, and useful addresses.  

Why I Chose It:  This selection is the most thorough on the list, but also the most formal in writing style.  It covers all the information in the other books and much more.   One of the best parts is the chapter on thanksgiving history that describes celebrations from the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Mayans, Chinese, and more.   Another noteworthy chapter is on how the tradition grew, including references to the Revolutionary War, Continental Congress, George Washington, Sarah Josepha Hale, and Abraham Lincoln.  The language is clear enough that younger children will understand it if read out loud while older students have something more substantial to sink their teeth into.  *Best Thanksgiving Information Coverage 
Honorable Mentions
There are two similar books that some may find helpful.  Both use a question/answer format for conveying information.  First, Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving (ages 3-6) by Peter and Connie Roop has approximately 9 main questions that are posed and answered.  Interspersed are riddle and fascinating fact pages.  The second one is called If You Were at …The First Thanksgiving (ages 5-10) by Anne Kamma which tackles 49 different questions about life in colonial America from the common ones, such as who was Squanto, why did the Pilgrims come to America, how did the Pilgrims and Indians meet, and where did they eat.  Also included is less commonly covered information , such as how did children help, were Pilgrim parents strict, who served the food, and why didn’t they serve pumpkin pie. 

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