Most of the picture books I highlight here for Read Aloud Thursday are library books. I realized long ago that I simply can’t, for reasons both monetary and spatial, purchase all the books we enjoy. However, I make one exception, and that’s for holiday books. I love collecting holiday story books for a couple of reasons–one, reading the same stories over and over around a holiday creates a memorable tradition; and two, it’s sometimes hard to locate holiday stories at the library due to their popularity and a limited number of copies. I think, though, that I’ve almost gone overboard when it comes to Thanksgiving books this year. 🙂 This fall I have acquired new books, swapped for used books, and checked out a nice stack of library books. Most of these titles are new to us, and we already have some books that we enjoy this time of year. (You can read last year’s Thanksgiving books posts here and here.) Although I have heard Lulu utter the words “Not another book about pilgrims!” once so far this season, I think the girls are enjoying these stories. Surely, Squanto, Samoset, and Massasoit have become household names for us, at least. 😉
Without further ado, the Thanksgiving literary feast:
Squanto: Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla was our first foray into Thanksgiving reading this year. This book is almost sixty years old, and as a read-aloud, I found it rather simple and almost ho-hum. I think this would’ve made a great story of Lulu to read on her own. This is not to say that the girls didn’t enjoy it–they most certainly did! I just found it to be a little lacking in style–or something. Oddly enough, though, I had tears in my eyes when I got to the end. The story of Squanto is not one I remember ever hearing or studying as a child, so I did appreciate the romantic/emotional appeal of a man who (at least according to Bulla’s account) found a place to belong. I’m not well versed enough in American history to know how accurate his portrayal of Squanto’s life is, but this simple chapter book would make a great introduction to the legendary character.
The Story of the Pilgrims by Katharine Ross is a good little factual introduction to, well, the story of the Pilgrims. I had Lulu read this one aloud to us (and granted, I was trying to rock the DLM to sleep so Lulu was reading very quietly at the very end of the story), and as far as I can tell, this story does stick to the facts but it does so with a storybookish flair. In fact, The Story of the Pilgrims begins with “Once upon a time in England. . . ” Lulu was tickled to note that Ross includes the detail that the Indians taught the Pilgrims “how to stamp eels out of the mud at low tide” (a detail that she and Louise relished from Bulla’s Squanto). I find Carolyn Croll‘s illustrations for this story to be rather flat and boring, but that’s probably because I’ve grown accustomed to looking at Kate Waters’ beautiful pictorials of life among the Pilgrims. Still, I think this one is a good one for the early elementary crowd.
I would definitely be remiss if I didn’t mention Kate Waters‘ excellent photojournalistic accounts yet again. Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy and Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl have become favorites here at the House of Hope, and I was pleased as could be to add On the Mayflower to our collection this year. On the Mayflower is subtitled Voyage of the Ship’s Apprentice & a Passenger Girl; this story gives the reader a chance to see what life on the Mayflower might really have been like for both a crew member and a passenger. Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast, also by Kate Waters, obviously focuses on what we traditionally think of as the first Thanksgiving. Of course, this whole story is one which for which it is somewhat difficult to separate the fact from the folklore, but I think Giving Thanks does a good job of illuminating what really might have happened (i.e. a series of meals together, in celebration of harvest and friendship, etc.) This story is told in alternating voices: that of Dancing Moccasins, a 14-year-old Wampanoag boy, and Resolved White, a 6-year-old English boy. It’s interesting, if a bit cumbersome at times, to note the differences between their ways of life. Both On the Mayflower and Giving Thanks include glossaries and other helpful addendum. Russ Kendall‘s photography of historical re-enactors at Plimoth Plantation absolutely brings both of these stories to life. I give both of these stories a hearty Highly Recommended, and I consider all of Kate Waters’ books top picks for early American history.
We haven’t just been reading Pilgrim and Indian stories, though. I picked up a few non-historical stories at the library just for fun. Here are the ones we’ve enjoyed so far:
The Memory Cupboard: A Thanksgiving Story by Charlotte Herman is a story that really gets at the heart of loving family relationships. It’s about a girl named Katie who goes with her parents to visit her grandmother and other relatives back at her mother’s childhood home. Family keepsakes are shared over Thanksgiving dinner, and Katie accidentally breaks one of them. Her grandmother responds in such a loving way to the accident, she makes me want to be like her. 🙂 Seriously, this is a sweet tale about the important things in life. Lulu really goes for stories like this. Ben F. Stahl‘s illustrations are referred to as “paintings” right on the front cover, and they really are lovely–very warm and moving, just like the story.
Thanksgiving Is Here! by Diane Goode is a fun picture book that focuses on the fun of family at Thanksgiving. The text in the story literally floats across the pages; this gives the story a lilting feel, even though the story doesn’t rhyme. The first several pages end in a sentence that begins with “we”: “We all love to cook at Thanksgiving”; “We all have a place at the table”; etc. This is just a fun book to read. The whimsical illustrations really add to the overall feeling of the story. My favorite picture is the two-page spread of the whole family (well over twenty people) sitting down at the long table they have created by pushing smaller tables together. This is a feel-good story that would appeal to just about any age, from preschool to adult.
Eve Bunting is a well-known author of children’s books who sometimes tackles difficult subjects. (For a tiny sampling of the diversity of her works, check out my reviews here, here, here, here, and here. Whew!) How Many Days to America?: A Thanksgiving Story is a picture book that provides a little peek into the experience of people seeking asylum in modern-day America. They are people who leave their unnamed home (the inside-front-cover summary says it’s somewhere in the Caribbean) with nothing except the clothing on their backs and sail to America in a smallish boat. Their experience at sea is not glamorized, and there are soldiers involved at almost every turn in their story. However, they finally do reach America on Thanksgiving Day, appropriately enough. This book really makes no political statement in that no philsophy is mentioned, but it does bring home the truth that America is a land of freedom and opportunity, even still today. Beth Peck‘s illustrations, which are dark-ish and overwhelmingly gray-blue, do a great job of creating the appropriate atmosphere for a story set at sea. My girls, who tend to the sensitive side, have listened to this one (we have it in audio from the library) over and over again. I imagine this one would pair nicely with Molly’s Pilgrim, which I read to my girls last Thanksgiving.
I have to include this last book, even though Lulu actually groans when I get it out. 🙂 Thanksgiving Day at Our House: Thanksgiving Poems for the Very Young is (obviously!) a book of poetry, and listening to poetry is not Lulu’s favorite thing to do. However, I think that a book full of Thanksgiving poems is a nice one to have on hand this time of year, and Nancy White Carlstrom’s poetry is very kid-friendly. I like that she includes several prayers and graces in this little collection. There’s even a nod in this book to the fact that she made her home in Alaska for a while! R.W. Alley‘s illustrations are detailed and fun, and each poem has its own unique illustration. I’d love to add this one to our home library.
Believe it or not, this is just a sampling of the stack of books we have here at the House of Hope to help us celebrate Thanksgiving! In the next week, I hope to read the following books, as well:
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving story? 🙂
Link up your Read Aloud Thursday post below.
Oh, and one last thing–there will be NO Read Aloud Thursday next Thursday in honor of Thanksgiving! 🙂