Thanksgiving is a great time for sharing stories. For many, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the things we are grateful for and also how we can be generous to and mindful of those around us. I wrote a post about how to mindfully read books about Thanksgiving with kids— This booklist is an extension of that post. For this holiday I like to select picture books that focus on gratitude and selflessness, but also stories that celebrate the holiday without reference to the First Thanksgiving, as many are historically inaccurate and misleading.
Here are a few reading suggestions to enjoy together during the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend:
Children’s Books ABOUT THANKS & GIVING
Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin, illustrated by Rebekah Raye
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Champan
Day by Day by Susan Gal
Nickommoh!: A Thanksgiving Celebration by Jacki French Koller, illustrated by Marcia Sewall
Feeling Thankful by Shelly Rotner, Shelia Kelly, photographs by Shelly Rotner
Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton
One Hen by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernades
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail de Marcken
STORIES ABOUT THANKSGIVING (that aren’t about the First Thanksgiving)
‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey
Over the River & Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Kim Smith
Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Child, illustrated by Christopher Manson
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson, illustrated Judy Schachner
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes, illustrated by DOris Barrette
The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horwitz
Thanksgiving is this week, which means many homes, libraries, and schools will celebrate the holiday season by reading stories about Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, many children’s books about Thanksgiving and the First Thanksgiving are riddled in inaccurate, incomplete information and stereotypes. It is true that the Pilgrims held a celebratory feast after their first successful harvest that was attended by Wampanoag people in 1621, a peace that lasted lasted for a generation at most. For many across the nation this American holiday is a time of gathering for friends and family, but it is also acknowledged as a National Day of Mourning.
I want to be clear that I myself am learning how to mindfully read books that highlight American Indians. In the past, I’ve made the mistake of recommending Thanksgiving books with insensitive stereotypes. I’m grateful for my experience as a children’s librarian and now as a homeschooling parent, roles that have enlightened my previous ignorance. As we grow to be a more accepting and consciously aware society, it’s important to challenge our own perspectives about Thanksgiving and critically look at books we use to teach our children about this American holiday.
That said, here are a few suggestions for how to mindfully read books about Thanksgiving with kids.
Learn About and Teach American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving
Read about the American Indian perspectives on Thanksgiving, what really happened at the First Thanksgiving, and common myths. If you’re a teacher, parent, or caregiver, learn about how you can talk about this holiday with children.
Read Thanksgiving Books With a Critical Eye
Watch this video of Native Americans reviewing Thanksgiving books. Note the problematic depictions and stereotypes they point out:
Looking for accurate books about the First Thanksgiving? Please checkout Debbie Reese’s blog posts Looking for Books About Thanksgiving? and Good Books About Thanksgiving. Also, check out Oyate’s Recommended Books about Thansgiving and books to avoid. I refer to the American Indians in Children’s Literature website anytime I question a book and how it depicts American Indians. It’s a valuable resource and I highly recommend utilizing it if you have any questions or are unsure about a specific children’s book.
Read Books Written By and/or Featuring American Indians Year-Round
Make it a point to read books that highlight American Indian characters and/or stories throughout the year, not just in November. Yes, Thanksgiving is in November and Native American Heritage Month is celebrated in November, but don’t let that limit you to only reading books about American Indians during that month. Read books with American Indian characters, books about American Indian history, and actively choose books written by American Indians throughout the entire year. Check out this reading list, and this list, and this list for suggestions.
In our home, we choose to focus on celebrating respect and gratitude for the earth, the provider of the food we eat and the water we drink, as well as celebrating loved ones in our lives. We don’t ignore the origins, we discuss it in a way that is appropriate for them to understand, but the traditional story isn’t a part of the how we acknowledge the holiday. There are several wonderfully written books about Thanksgiving that don’t include references to the first Thanksgiving and also books with a general theme of gratitude that would be excellent read-alouds to enjoy this holiday– Here’s a booklist of my favorite children’s books about thanks & giving.
“The wind blows yellow sideways, then up, then down. Everywhere fills with yellow. A symphony of yellow.”
The leaves have finally started turning and it is aglow in gold here in Kansas. We’ve been reading Lauren Stringer’s new autumnal picture book Yellow Time (public library) on repeat, because like the characters in the story, we’ve been waiting and waiting for this magical time when the world seems to be a vibrant yellow– Now it’s finally here!
Yellow Time begins with neighborhood children gathering outside to admire the autumn weather. All of a sudden a wind rips through the trees, announcing the moment they’ve all been waiting for– Yellow time! They play, frolic, dance, gather leaves, and make leaf crowns, but like all good things it must come to an end. The children appreciate and admire the spell while it lasts and once it’s over, find a way to preserve a bit of this beloved time of year.
Melodic text and vibrant illustrations that almost appear to be moving in the vivid contrast between the the dark bark and bright yellow leaves, the children, and the crows. This is a book that will make you want to run and play outside, enjoying all the wonder and opportunity the autumn season holds.
Yellow Time Color Hunt
Reading Yellow Time prompted our own seasonal color investigation with a autumn color scavenger hunt. This is a simple activity highlighted on two fantastic blogs, Book Nerd Mommy and 3 Green Acorns, which I adapted for this picture book. Here’s how this simple exploration in autumn color theory works…
– Yellow interior paint color swatches (the ones pictured came from our local hardware store)
– Clothes pins
– Found nature items in various shades of yellow
Alrighty. So, this is a fairly straight forward activity. Take a walk outside during a fall day when the leaves have already started to change, taking notice of the various shades of yellow. Gather a few yellow nature items in a spectrum of light and dark shades. Once you return home, sort and color match the found nature treasures with the yellow paint swatches. We adhered our nature findings with clothes pins onto the paint color swatches, because the wind kept blowing the leaves away.
The yellow color seen in fallen leaves is actually a chemical breakdown of chlorophyll, the scientific name for what gives leaves their green color. When the days grow shorter and colder in autumn, photosynthesis stops and the green parts of leaves (chlorophll) breaks down leaving the yellow colors we see before the leaves breaks from the branch entirely. This yellow color is called xanthophyll. We see remnants of other colors too depending on the type of tree– Orange is carotene, the reds and purples are anthocyanin, and brown is tannin. Eventually, all leaves turn brown.
Sorting these shades of yellow is one way to see the range of xanthophyll exhibited in a variety of plants and autumn leaves. An autumn yellow color hunt is an easy peasy way to delve into the science of the season and a bit of color theory too!
Happy Yellow Time!
For more autumn reads, check out these 6 new picture books that celebrate the fall as well as this massive booklist organized by theme of favorite fall reads for kids.
*Copy of book reviewed was provided by the good folks at Simon & Schuster
Fall is here. The leaves have started turning and animals are preparing for the upcoming winter season. Plants are at the end of their life cycle, scattering seeds whether it be by wind, water, or hitching a ride on an animal. It’s fun experience to see how seeds are scattered (sowed is the technical term) by taking a sock walk. This nature prompt came from A Kid’s Fall Ecojournal (public library) by Toni Albert, illustrated by Margaret Brandt, a fantastic resource for nature activities for children. Here’s how we tested out this activity in late September along with our current seed sock growing results.
MATERIALS FOR SOCK WALK ACTIVITY
– Books about seeds (reading suggestions below)
– Old socks that fit over shoes
– Sterile potting soil
– A shallow dish or pan
Step 1: First, we read a few books about seeds before going on your sock walk. This helped provide context to the day’s adventure. Here’s a booklist of a few we enjoyed reading if you’d like to start this way as well:
Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by Joann Early Macken, illustrated by Pam Paparone
A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long
Miss Maples’ Seeds by Eliza Wheeler
Seeds by Ken Robbins
Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
Step 2: Find some socks that will fit over shoes and pants. The girls used several of their daddy’s old socks that had lost their mate over time. Then, take a trip to a favorite walking path whether it be a dry grassy field, prairie, or meadow. Pull the socks on over your shoes and hike them up as high as they will go and then get walking! It’s a pretty silly experience walking around with socks over your shoes, so be prepared for giggles.
Step 3: It won’t take long until you see lots of little seeds sticking to your socks. Once you’ve finished your walk, take the socks off and admire all your newfound seed friends that decided to hitch a ride on your fluffy feet.
Step 4: When you arrive at home, using a shallow pan or dish, sprinkle sterile potting soil into the container evenly about 3/4 of the way full. Lay your sock on top of the dirt. This would be another good time to look at the seeds up close. Are they all the same or is there a variety of different shapes, colors, and sizes? Once the examination is finished, sprinkle more potting soil over the sock until it is covered. Don’t use too much dirt. One layer is more than enough. Water your seed sock, set it in a sunny window, watch and wait.
Step 5: Continue to water your seed sock whenever it is dry and you might notice sprouts coming out of the dirt where the sock was buried. Those are seeds from the walk that have germinated!
Optional: Place the other sock from your sock walk in another dish as described in step 4 and stick it into the refrigerator for a couple weeks. Most seeds “sleep” during the wintertime and time in the refrigerator would be like a little mini-winter for the seeds. After two weeks are up, take the pan out and set it next to the other seed sock. Keep them both watered and compare how the two grow.
My 6-year-old had such a good time with this project and continues to take care of her seed sock. Who knows what will sprout up over the next several weeks? We can’t wait to find out!
Last year I assembled this massive booklist of children’s books about autumn sorted by theme– Autumn Equinox, apples, changing leaves, harvest season, pumpkins, scarecrows, and the list goes on. This year, a handful of noteworthy picture books were released about the autumnal season that are too good not to add onto the list of favorite fall-time reads.
Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! by Anne Sibley O’Brien, illustrated by Susan Gal
A followup to Abracadabra, It’s Spring, this charming, colorful book includes fold-out pages revealing the magical transformations that take place from summer to autumn. The colors in this book will make you sigh, “Ooohhh… Ahhhhhh!”, as if seeing a magician performing mystifying tricks.
Yellow Time by Lauren Stringer
This book could not have been released at a more opportune time for us here in Kansas. September is indeed a ‘yellow time’ of the year with the golden tallgrass, variety of wild, sky-reaching sunflowers, and goldenrod ablaze in the quickly dimming daylight hours. A lyrical and vibrant story about the time that comes only once a year when the world seems to glow yellow.
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak
A debut book as both author and illustrator, Kenard Pak walks us through the transition from late summer to the beginning of the autumn season in this factual, stunning read aloud. Full book review + goodbye summer nature activity can be found here!
Wonderfall by Michael Hall
Fall can be described in many ways, some of which Michael Hall has cleverly discovered end in “fall”. “Peacefall”, “Plentifall”, “Beautifall”, this picture book in verse featuring a tree, two squirrels and many ways to explore word blending and the wonder of fall. This book is a must-read for elementary school teachers.
Little Frog and the Scary Autumn Thing by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Ellen Shi
Little frog loves the color green. Her whole summertime life since she’s been alive has been green, green, green. When the colors start changing with the transition of seasons, Little Frog becomes quite afraid when his beloved green starts to change into unfamiliar colors. Mother Frog tries to calm Little Frog by telling her, “Most things that are scary are only just new”. Little Frog braves exploring the changing environment, embracing the change when finding comfort in the familiar. A great read for kids who have a hard time with transitions.
Bella’s Fall Coat by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Susan Gal
Do these illustrations look familiar? Susan Gal is the same illustrator of Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! (see above)– She’s had a busy book release season this autumn! Bella loves her too-small coat and wants to keep wearing it forever, but she quickly learns that just like the autumn season change is inevitable. As we approach the days of changing out warm weather wardrobes for cool weather clothing, many children will find themselves in a similar predicament. Another fantastic book about coping and learning from change!