Wednesday, November 7, 2012

14 Fun and Festive Children's Books for Thanksgiving

Confession:  I'm not very good at decorating for the holidays.  I don't own any Thanksgiving decorations.  We've never put up outdoor Christmas lights.  (We plan to change that this year!)  I appreciate other people's efforts but just don't have that gene in me.  I like to celebrate my seasons with books instead.  It's so exciting to me.  I love thinking about all the things that are special about each season or holiday and then search out corresponding books.  Finding books for each time of year is an adventure that I cherish.  My boys and I spend our dinnertimes exploring them and getting in the seasonal mood.  So -- without further ado and in lieu of a gorgeous wreath or leafy table runner -- I give you this:

In no particular order, here are the ones that made the cut:

By Tanya Lee Stone; Illustrated by Gerald Kelley
This alphabet book is a great Thanksgiving overview.  Layed out as an alphabet book, it covers all the bases in a cute, child-accessible way.  The kids are putting on Thanksgiving play and telling you all about the holiday.  My first-grader came home from school and recommended this one to me after his teacher read it to his class.  Kids' recommendations are always the best.

By Lisa Wheeler; Illustrated by Frank Ansley
Every year I look forward to pulling out Turk and Runt again.  It's my official favorite.  Runt's brother, Turk, is a prime bird and his parents' favorite.  Nobody but Runt seems to realize the fate of the juiciest, heartiest turkey on the farm.  Yet nobody ever listens to poor Runt.  Runt spends the whole book trying to save his brother's life, with lots of hilarious dialogue and antics. 

By Laurie Halse Anderson; Illustrated by Matt Faulkmer
This is a surprisingly enjoyable book.  Prior to reading it, I didn't know anything about the how Thanksgiving came to be a national holiday.  This book tells the story of Sarah Hale in such an enjoyable way, that my first-grader and I were equally enthralled.  The illustrations add tons of life as well.  A top pick for grades K and up.

By Joseph Bruchac; Illustrated by Greg Shed
The paintings are gorgeous.  They won me over regardless of the text.  But the story, too, is both enjoyable and educational.  It gives a balanced look at the complex events surrounding the first Thanksgiving.  I highly recommend it for older children, K-1 and up.

By Phil Bildner; Illustrated by C.F. Payne
Football has always been a part of Thankgiving Day in my family.  The young boy in the story is looking foward the first time he is able to play in his family's annual T-Day Turkey Bowl.  When relatives get caught in bad weather, things don't go exactly as planned.  I like that it's an original Thanksgiving Day story that touches on many current family traditions while also just telling a story.

By Melissa Sweet
I'm in love with this book.  I even bought it for my personal collection this week.  With this one, Melissa Sweet just ranked on my lists of favorite illustrators.  Melissa tells the story of Tony Sarg, the puppeteer of Macy's Parade.  Stories of inventors and artists and trailblazers are always appreciated in this household, so this is right up our alley.  It's intriguing and informative and totally made me want to watch the parade this year.  Another must for your list.  

If your library doesn't have this one - here's a hint: if your Thanksgiving books section has already been raided and cleaned out by crazy people like me, go to your local bookstore, grab a pile of seasonal books, then sit down and enjoy them with your child.  It's totally okay and very fun.  Most bookstores have tables for that exact purpose.  I like to let my boys pick one to add to our collection at the end of the day.  It makes a great family field trip.

By Allison Jackson; Illustrated by Judith Byron Schachner
My boys cannot get enough of this funny progressive story.  It didn't think I would like it, but it's so fun to read.  The words have a fantastic rhythm and the illustrations are so funny.  I don't love that it says "perhaps she'll die" on every other page, so we add funny phrases of our own as a follow-up.  "Probably not..."  or "But I doubt it."  The kids get a kick out of thinking up new phrases, and it makes it seem less creepy.  The story ends with the woman as a Thanksgiving Day float.  Bonus points to anyone who knows what book series the illustrator, Judith Byron Schachner, is famous for... {hint, hint}

By Michelle Medlock Adams; Illustrated by Amy Wummer
A simple board book.  Great for preschoolers.  I like that it gets to the heart and mentions to whom we are thankful.  Harder to come by than I would have thought!

By Natasha Wing; Illustrated by Tammie Lyon
Another simple, cute book that talks about popular Thanksgiving traditions.  While it's not one I can rave about, it's a good introduction to the season.  Sometimes I forget that kids need that basic overview so they can enjoy the premise of all the funny books more thoroughly.

By Julie Markes; Illustrated by Doris Barrette
This one focuses on gratitude and all the things we have to be thankful for.  It's another good one for Preschoolers and Kindergarteners.

By Alison Murray
Apple Pie ABC was also on my Fall Booklist, but I had to include it here too.  My almost four-year-old adores this book.  I'm in love with the paper quality.  It's a beauty of a book with a retro vibe.  

By Mark Moulton; Illustrated by David Wenzel
I like that this one mentions God; I had such a difficult time finding books that did.  I feel like you can't put Thanksgiving in proper context or meaning without that.  

By Teresa Bateman; Illustrated by Jeff Shelly
Another funny book about a turkey escaping its fate.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.  Both the text and the artwork are filled with the quirk and humor that wins me right over.

By Judy Cox; Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
We got this one from a Scholastic book order for a dollar I think.  I had low expectations, but it's such a nice surprise.  It's another progressive story, about a mouse who starts out satisfied with one little pea, but soon slides down the slippery slope of greed and the need for more and more.  Until he find himself with the turkey and gravy boat balanced on his one little pea!  We look forward to reading this one every year.

What are your family Thanksgiving favorites?  Do you lean more towards funny ones, or do you like more historical books?  I'd love to hear!


  1. Nice list! I really want to find Balloons over Broadway; it looks really fun!

    1. I think you will love it! Our library doesn't have it, or didn't have it the three times I looked for it, so I was so happy to find it at Barnes and Noble. I bought their last copy, because it was the last one and I really wanted my first-grader to read it this year. I'm so glad that he loved it as much as I do! Melissa Sweet also did the art for another book that I really want to get my hands on. The Boy who Drew Birds. It's about James Audubon.

  2. Thanks for the list! One of our favorite stories, Gobble Gobble Crash!, isn't directly about Thanksgiving, but it's a fun read about turkeys. If you enjoy rhythm, cadence, and humor in your read alouds, it won't disappoint!

    1. I just read your post about it. The artwork looks really cute - and funny. Once our library Thanksgiving section isn't entirely cleaned out, I'll definitely look this one up! Isn't funny that most humorous Thanksgiving books are all about the poor turkey? And yet, no matter how many times the story has been told, if it's done right, it's still funny?


Thanks for joining the conversation!