This year I really got into the holiday spirit and worked hard to pass the excitement of a season of Thanksgiving on to my 3-year-old. I think it worked. Every evening each family member chose a strip of colourful paper and wrote one thing for which we were thankful that day, and then we turned all of those strips into an ever-lengthening Thankfulness Chain. The chain is now tucked away in a box of autumn decorations and will come out next year for a different activity to remind us of what we appreciated the year before.
Another effort I made was to collect several Thanksgiving-themed books from the library. Little Miss was quite excited about special Thanksgiving books, and we read them every night before bed. Because I have a bad memory (and because some of the books we got were better than others), here is a list of the books we got, along with a brief synopsis and my personal opinion of the book. I hope this is helpful information for someone else out there, but mainly it is so I can improve our selection next Thanksgiving.
NOTE: I found all of these books while browsing the library’s catalog and searching for a few recommended books I found on Pinterest. I did not see any of them in “person” until I went to pick them up from the hold shelf at the library.
“Corduroy’s Thanksgiving” by Lisa McCue
Corduroy and his friends get together for a special Thanksgiving feast. The original Corduroy story is cute and interesting, but this book was disappointing. It was more on the level of a 1-year-old and the artwork was rather old-fashioned, but the characters are cute.
“Fancy Nancy: Our Thanksgiving Banquet” by Jane O’Connor
Fancy Nancy and her family meet the rest of their extended family and Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. She is disappointed to be relegated to the kids’ table (“again”), but after a stroke of luck lands her a place at the grown-ups’ table, she quickly regrets her wish and happily heads back to the kids’ table. This was my first Fancy Nancy story. I found it to be a fun and educational story, with a few simple words (“bonjour”) and phrases (“mais oui” and “tres chic”) in French and simple (yet interesting!) language appropriate for a preschool-aged child. This was probably my daughter’s favourite Thanksgiving book. It even includes a holiday-themed craft idea, and defines a few “fancy” words for kids (intervene, mature, etc.). All in all, a cute story, adorable artwork, and a fun character.
“The Thanksgiving Door” by Debby Atwell
On Thanksgiving day, an elderly woman burns the turkey, rendering the meal inedible. Since they are alone for the holiday, she and her husband decide to see if the new restaurant down the road is open. They find the door unlocked and enter, ready to order their dinner. But the unlocked door was a mistake, and the Eastern European family who owns the place was preparing for their own family feast. Though the younger members of the family want to chase the couple away, Grandma speaks up and insists they welcome the couple as family. The elderly couple is treated to one of the most unique Thanksgiving Day celebrations they have ever experienced and are sent home with gifts of many kinds – not all tangible. This was probably my absolute favourite book of the year. Not just out of the Thanksgiving books but out of the hundreds of books we checked out from the library this year, this is definitely in the top ten. The pictures are cute, the story is brilliantly heartwarming, and it’s the perfect length and style for a preschooler. (And her mommy.)
“The Night Before Thanksgiving” by Natasha Wing
A family readies their home for Thanksgiving dinner by working together to prepare it the night before. This was a mediocre book. The artwork is adorable, but the story isn’t very interesting (even Little Miss only read the book once or twice). It’s really 50/50 whether or not I’d check this out again.
“Over the River and Through the Wood” by L. Maria Child & Matt Tavares
A family heads to their grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, following the well-known tune titled the same as the book. Personally, I couldn’t get past the fact that I know this song as a Christmas song, so to talk about “over the river and through the wood” being for Thanksgiving felt weird. Even the imagery in the poem feels more Christmassy than autumnal, but to be honest the song I knew as a kid never mentions a specific holiday (that I knew of), so I suppose it’s possible to go either way. The one (major) thing this book has going for it is the gorgeous art. Each page is a beautifully drawn, cheerful and colourful scene depicting the Dickens’-era family headed through the snow to Grandma’s house. I wish I could just get a book of the pictures!
“Happy Thanksgiving, Biscuit!” by Alyssa Satin Capucilli & Pat Schories
Biscuit the dog runs alongside his girl and helps her get everything ready for Grandpa and Grandma’s arrival on Thanksgiving. They even make a Thanksgiving feast for the cat and dog to share together. This was our first Biscuit book. It’s very cute, and I’d like to check out some additional books in the series because I think Little Miss would enjoy them, too. The characters are cute, the story is simple and fun, and – at least in this particular book – there was something to find on nearly every page (Biscuit’s ball was “hidden” on about half the pages).
“Marley: A Thanksgiving to Remember” by John Grogan, Richard Cowdrey, & Rick Whipple
Marley the dog gets as excited about Thanksgiving preparation as his family does…andit gets him into a little bit of mischief. In the end, the family is grateful for each other – even Marley, the mischievous dog. This is a cute book, and lift-the-flap stories are always a hit with preschoolers. Though I did chuckle at the apparent disorganization of Marley’s family, it was fun for Little Miss to lift the flap on each page to find the next thing the family had lost while getting Thanksgiving dinner ready.
“Bear Says Thanks” by Karma Wilson
Bear is bored and wants to have a party with his friends, but he doesn’t have any food. Then his woodland friends start showing up with offerings of various gifts of food…and together they put on a party. Bear is thankful for each gift, and even more grateful for his friends. While not necessarily specifically a Thanksgiving book, it definitely fits the bill. And any time I can get and read a Karma Wilson book, I’m happy. Her “Bear” series are must-reads for the simple rhymes (perfect for preschoolers), the cute stories, and the unbelievably cute artwork. We haven’t yet read all the Bear books by Wilson, but we intend to! She has written others as well, and I’d like to find and read them all at some point. I’m definitely a fan.
“Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation” by Diane Stanley
The Time-Traveling Twins (I didn’t realize this was a thing until I read the synopsis on amazon recently) visit their grandma for Thanksgiving and while their parents run to town for something, they ask Grandma to take them to visit one of their ancestors in a photo on the wall. Grandma obliges and the twins find themselves in Plymouth Plantation on the day before the very first Thanksgiving. They prepare food with the pilgrims, sleep with the pilgrims, go to church with the pilgrims, and, finally, eat the first Thanksgiving feast with the pilgrims. They even get to meet Squanto! This book had WAY too many words for a preschooler and if I would’ve done as much research as I should have on this book I wouldn’t have gotten it. It’s not meant for anyone under the age of 7 or 8, I don’t think. The story isn’t very interesting unless you’re excited to learn about history, because it’s less of a “story” and more of a history textbook explanation of the first Thanksgiving. The pictures, however, are cute and colourful.
“Thank You Bear” by Greg Foley
Bear finds something he thinks is fantastic and would be perfect for Mouse. On his way to find Mouse he runs into several friends, all of whom make him begin to doubt the true fantastic-ness of what he found. By the time he gets to Mouse, he is completely discouraged…until Mouse sees what Bear has for him and deems it “perfect!” This story is extremely simple (two short sentences per page and semi-repetitive) and the artwork is kind of boring, but it’s a sweet story about friends and being generous…and appreciative. It’s also a lesson in how everyone sees things differently. Again, this isn’t specifically a Thanksgiving story, but the lesson of thankfulness – and its effect on a cheerful giver – is evident.
There may be others we checked out that I’m forgetting, and if I remember them I’ll add them later. For now, this list should be a good start!