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GOBBLE UP these Thanksgiving-themed books for kids

MCT illustration

As Thanksgiving approaches, take the spotlight off the turkey and the pies for a while and settle in for a good read. These five choices range from serious history books about the Pilgrims to one that will help you come up with craft ideas to celebrate the season.

“The Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ New World”

By Nathaniel Philbrick

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008

Best for ages: 11 and up

This book is adapted for younger readers from the bestseller “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War” by Nathaniel Philbrick.

If you think you know all about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, the Indians and Thanksgiving, then read this fascinating book and think again. The author writes vividly about how the Pilgrims came to America in 1620 on the Mayflower and settled in what is now Plymouth, Mass. In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag American Indians did celebrate together with a feast, and the Indians did keep the Pilgrims from starving during the winter. They lived and worked with the Indians largely in peace for 50 years until the bloody time known as King Philip’s War. What began with a promise for peace between the English and the Indians ended in tragedy for both. The author includes a timeline and the Mayflower passenger list. The illustrations are especially good, with many drawings and maps from the original period.

“1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving”

By Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac with Plimoth Plantation

Photographs by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson

National Geographic Society, 2001

Best for ages: 6 and up

The beautiful photographs of both Pilgrims and Wampanoags are set in the living museum of Plimoth Plantation, where people re-enact carefully researched history. Both groups come together to celebrate the harvest in a way that is different from the usual portrayals, with authentic food and games. The Wampanoag people’s language, society and way of life are portrayed in a realistic manner, as well as their peaceful interaction with the English. Margaret Bruchac is a member of the Abenaki tribe and an adviser of the Wampanoag program at the Plimoth Plantation.

“Gooney Bird and the Room Mother”

By Lois Lowry, illustrated by Middy Thomas

Houghton Mifflin, 2005

Best for ages: 6 and up

For a real change of pace, try Gooney Bird Greene’s take on the classic Thanksgiving pageant and homeroom Thanksgiving feast. Gooney Bird wants to be Squanto in the play, so she comes up with an incognito Room Mother to bring cupcakes. The class continues with the preparations for the pageant (including many new words along the way) and worries about the identity of the unknown Room Mother and whether she really will bring cupcakes. The ending is a surprise for everyone, including the teacher. Lois Lowry is at her funniest with the Gooney Bird Greene stories.

“All New Crafts for Thanksgiving”

By Kathy Ross, illustrated by Sharon Lane Holm

Millbrook Press, 2006

Best for ages: 7 and up

Kathy Ross is known as the “Queen of Crafts,” and her holiday craft books are especially useful for parents, teachers and caregivers who want to help young children make something themselves. Each craft is clearly explained; the instructions are illustrated step-by-step and require simple items. Set some family traditions yourselves for this most traditional holiday by making crafts such as Pilgrim place cards, a turkey wreath or a sailing ship cup.

“Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving”

By Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Simon & Schuster, 2002

Best for ages: 6 and up

Laurie Halse Anderson is a descendant of Sarah Josepha Hale and believes strongly in Thanksgiving as a national celebration. The author describes Sarah Hale’s 30-plus-year struggle to get Thanksgiving declared a national holiday, which Abraham Lincoln did in 1863, during the Civil War. That was a bleak time in our history, when we needed a national celebration, and it has endured to this day; although Sarah could not have envisioned the Macy’s parade and the annual football games that have also become traditions. Did you know that Sarah Hale also wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” among many other poems and magazine articles? In this lively book, you will learn a lot about Thanksgiving’s post-Pilgrim history.

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