We all know Thanksgiving is about giving thanks in addition to feasting over a delicious meal with family. We also know the first Thanksgiving involved pilgrims, native Americans, and the celebration of the bountiful fall harvest — and took place hundreds of years ago. But there’s a lot more to the story worth exploring.
This Thanksgiving, add a little history to your turkey and cranberry sauce as you boost your family’s knowledge of the people, places, events, and circumstances that led to this special holiday. How can you make this slice of American history enticing to family members of all ages? You could give everyone a history lesson before the Thanksgiving meal.
May we suggest one (or a few) of the many interesting picture books about Thanksgiving written over the last few decades. They’ll capture the attention of kids and adults alike. Here, we share a few of our favorites.
- Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl
This book by Katie Waters gives you a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of young Sarah, living on an early American settlement in 1627. Each day, Sarah rises at dawn to feed animals, make and tend to a fire, and more in this compelling photo-story that humanizes Thanksgiving.
- Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message
Written by Chief Jake Swamp of the Mohawk nation, this story salutes Mother Earth and all that she provides with a good morning message of the Iroquois tradition. It’s a perfect way for families to start Thanksgiving Day — its renderings of the natural world are a sight to behold.
- The Thanksgiving Story
This one is a bit older (written in 1985 by Alice Dalgliesh) but a true gem. It received the Caldecott Honor award and does a wonderful job conveying that the first Thanksgiving involved real families with real challenges. Full of beautiful illustrations, the book tells the story of the holiday from the viewpoint of the Hopkins family, who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower.
- Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving
Does your family know that Squanto, a member of the Patuxet (the People of the Falls), welcomed the Pilgrims as they arrived on the Mayflower? In fact, it was Squanto who taught the Pilgrims how to grow food and survive. Hear Squanto tell his story in this historically accurate account — and discover how he made (and remained) friends with the English settlers, despite trying circumstances.
After you read together as a family, ask yourselves what new things you learned about Thanksgiving, and what questions you now have. Then go enjoy the turkey!
Know some other good Thanksgiving picture books? Share them with us on Facebook.