Sarah Gives Thanks by Mike Allegra is a good picture book biography to add to your Thanksgiving collection. It tells the story of Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who campaigned for Thanksgiving to be named a national holiday. Sarah Gives Thanks begins with Sarah as a young widow searching for a way to provide for her family of five children. It paints a picture of Sarah as a woman unusually educated for the time, having educated herself through discussions with her brother, a student at Dartmouth, and through her conversations with her lawyer husband. It was her husband, David, who convinced her to submit her poetry to magazines for publication. After his death, she finally came back to writing as the best way for her to make money. Her Thanksgiving mission grew from her family’s Thanksgiving in 1826, the first Thanksgiving since her husband’s death in 1822 that the family’s fortunes were improving. This was Sarah’s philosophy about the holiday:
But, to Sarah, Thanksgiving was not about the Pilgrims and the Indians and their famous feast. Thanksgiving was about what that feast meant. The holiday helped Sarah to look beyond her personal problems and appreciate what she had.
After this, Sarah became the “editress” of a couple of well-known ladies’ magazines, and thus “Sarah Josepha Hale became a household name.” She used this fame to campaign for Thanksgiving, and finally, finally, after thirty-six year, President Abraham Lincoln listens. And so the book ends: “but she didn’t mind. Sarah was thankful.” David Gardner’s illustrations are lovely and evocative of the time period. My favorite illustration is a series of portraits of the presidents who turned Sarah down. (I particularly like the yawning James Buchanan.) Again, this book is a great addition to a Thanksgiving book list. Highly Recommended. (Albert Whitman, 2012)
I know we’ve read Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson, but somehow I failed to review it. It’s a good one, too.