Thanksgiving Day Books for Children

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As you prepare for Thanksgiving, I’ve put together some of our favorite Thanksgiving Day books to share with your children. They will help prepare their hearts and minds for giving thanks and {re}acquaint them with the Thanksgiving story.

Thanksgiving Day Books for Children - By Keri

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to share with our children the early history of our nation’s birth with the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620.

What has been taught throughout history regarding Thanksgiving hasn’t always been historically accurate. So, I’ve tried to include books that offer a more balanced and truthful history of the Pilgrims, Native Americans and the Thanksgiving holiday.

15+ Thanksgiving Day Books for Children

My First Thanksgiving by Tomie dePaola, Ages 3-5

This is a great introductory book about Thanksgiving for your toddlers and preschoolers. In true Tomie dePaola-style, the illustrations are cheerful and fun, and the message is one of friendship and gratitude. The book briefly discusses the history of Thanksgiving from the Pilgrims to today.

Over the River & Through the Woods by Lydia Maria Child, Ages 4 & up

I remember this 19th Century poem from my childhood and recently introduced it to my children who absolutely loved the beautiful woodcut illustrations and especially the tune. (Do kids even know the song anymore? Well, mine now do!) This would be a great historical poem about a trip to grandfather’s house for your children to commit to memory.

I’m a Turkey! by Jim Arnosky, Ages 4-8

While this book isn’t about Thanksgiving, it does provide some interesting facts and insights into the bird we associate with the holiday. Arnosky is a master at weaving fact into fiction, bringing the mundane to life through narrative. His comical illustrations add to the fun of reading this book. Trust me: you (and your kids) will learn a lot about turkeys by reading this book, and you’ll get a few good laughs in the process.

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh, Ages 5-8

Dalgliesh’s story chronicles one family’s first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth Colony. Historically accurate and written in narrative form, The Thanksgiving Story traces Giles, Constance, and Damaris Hopkins’ journey on the Mayflower on which their little brother Oceanus is born and tells of their struggles to survive the horrific first year in the New World and celebrate the harvest the following November with natives Massoit and Squanto. Filled with colorful illustrations, The Thanksgiving Story appeals to young readers who empathize with the Hopkins’ struggles.

A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting, Ages 5-8

A Turkey for Thanksgiving is a sweet story about Mr. & Mrs. Moose and their plans to have a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Unbeknownst to the poor turkey, who thinks he’s sure to be the main course, the Moose and their friends only want to invite Turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving and have dinner with them. A very cute story with lovely animal illustrations that’s a great read aloud!

Squanto & the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas, Ages 5-9

Essentially, this is a biography of Squanto, the Patuxet Indian who’s kidnapped and taken to England where he’s sold as a slave to some Spanish monks who introduce him to God. Squanto eventually returns to his home only to discover that his tribe has been decimated by illness, but when he learns about a group of English settlers there on the verge of starvation and facing a cold winter, Squanto comes to their aid, realizing God’s perfect plan for his life. Squanto’s story is one of hope and redemption: a must-read for those interested in learning more about this Native American’s unique life.

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin, Ages 5-9

Have you read any of the Cranberry books? My children adore this series about Mr. Whiskers, Grandmother, and Maggie, and Cranberry Thanksgiving is a favorite! The book centers on Grandmother’s secret recipe for cranberry bread, which she suspects Mr. Whiskers of wanting to steal. However, a theme of “appearances can be deceiving” is at play here as Grandmother invites a well-dressed lonely man to Thanksgiving dinner and Maggie asks Mr. Whiskers only to discover that Grandmother’s guest is really the thief! Full of colorful illustrations and lovable characters, your children will also fall in love with the Cranberry books. Plus, you can make Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread as the recipe is included.

Thanksgiving on Thursday (Magic Tree House #27) by Mary Pope Osborne, Ages 6-9

For an imaginative yet authentic spin on the first Thanksgiving in 1621, try the Magic Tree House version. Jack & Annie are sent back to the eve of that first Thanksgiving where they meet the Pilgrims and are helped by the Native American Squanto. The beauty of this book is in the vivid depiction of life in Colonial America as Jack and Annie have to learn how to hunt and gather food just like the settlers. Your kids are sure to enjoy this easy-to-read, humorous account of the very first Thanksgiving.

Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson, Ages 6-9

Have you ever wondered how Thanksgiving became a national holiday? I had no idea! This book recounts how one determined woman named Sarah Hale (author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) pushed for and eventually convinced President Roosevelt to make the fourth Thursday in November an annual holiday to be celebrated by all Americans every year. The comic-like illustrations and satirical language resemble a political cartoon, but this book is also chock-full of historical facts and humor, making learning fun and interesting.

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, Ages 8-12

The author of “Little Women” wrote this lovely story about a mother that must go away during the Thanksgiving holiday. While she is gone her children decide to make Thanksgiving dinner on their own to surprise their mother! 

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, Ages 8-12

This photo-essay provides a more historically accurate telling of the first “Thanksgiving” celebration of 1621. If you’re looking for a more measured and balanced history of the American holiday, Thanksgiving, this is one to consider. 

Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims, Ages 10-12

This work of historical fiction will give your children a glimpse into what life might have been like for the famous Native American, Squanto, who is known as the friend of the pilgrims. 

The Landing of the Pilgrims, Ages 10-12

Discover fresh accounts of the Pilgrim’s lives through James Daugherty’s book which draws on their own journals. Their desire for religious freedom has become an American ideal that is still strong today. 

America’s Hidden History, High School

Written by the author of “Don’t Know Much About History” Kenneth Davis’ shares a collection of stories spanning from the arrival of the Spanish through to the inauguration of George Washington. By busting myths and shedding light on little known facts from the beginning of our nation he sets the record straight. 

Thanksgiving the Biography of an American Holiday, High School

James W. Baker’s work is the first in-depth book surrounding America’s Thanksgiving holiday. Through the book, he shares how the holiday came to be, shares truth regarding misconceptions, tells how the holiday grew to be so much a part of America’s history and much more. 

Thanksgiving the Pilgrims’ First Year in America, High School

Learning about the history of the Thanksgiving holiday reveals that it is much more than just a celebration. Glenn Alan Cheney brings the story to life by sharing what the survivors did after facing struggles such as starvation and death. 

The Pilgrim Chronicles, High School

Based on William Bradford’s account, this illustrated guide is filled with moving narratives that bring the lives of the Pilgrims to life. This book will take you further than just the first winter that the Pilgrims survived and give you more detail on their journey to America for religious freedom.

Teaching our children about the history of our country and its people is important. Thanksgiving is a holiday that we need to never forget, but we do need to make sure our children know the truest history that we can.

It is my hope that these books provide your children with the foundation they need to understand the depth and true history of Thanksgiving. 

What is your favorite Thanksgiving Day book for children?

P.S. For even more Thanksgiving Day books for children, check out the Plimoth Plantation’s online store

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