Okay, this booklist came from an amusing source, as I was working on our Massachusetts unit I was finding all of these historical Thanksgiving picture books, so many that I had to severely limit what I picked up for our unit and I thought, “I should actually make a historical Thanksgiving picture book list, it goes right in line with my goals of creating booklists for most major historical events if I can.” And that is how this Thanksgiving history books list was born.
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After reading through this again, I’m going to bold my favorites, because after a while, the books just run together
Before I dive into this booklist, let me point you to a couple of things:
- Lego History of Thanksgiving– act out the event with LEGO
- Homeschool Thanksgiving– some silly ideas and some serious ideas
- Thanksgiving leftovers– we make this every year, or every time we make turkey…
Nonfiction historical Thanksgiving picture books
These will generally cover the events of the time, usually focusing on how and why of the original Thanksgiving.
- Giving Thanks: the 1621 Harvest Feast– portrayed with people, particularly focusing on children in a recreation of the events (I would recommend picking up at least one of the books by this author)
- Off to Plymouth Rock!– a retelling of the story in rhyme, do with that what you will. I know rhyming children’s books are really controversial
- The First Thanksgiving– a level 3 reader covering the events of the first Thanksgiving, nothing that stands out other than the vocabulary is set up for 2nd grade reading level
- The Pilgrims and Me– the conceit of this book is a young girl writing her report after visiting Plymouth Plantation with aside of things she learned about the Pilgrims while visiting there, highly amusing
- The Story of the First Thanksgiving– This is an odd book, it’s almost written as a series of poems, but the poems don’t flow like poetry despite being formatted like poems. But, it’s a decent book with an interesting idea to show how to draw some of the pictures at the end
- Tapenum’s Day– creating the day of a Wampanoag boy using photo recreations, this is part of a series that came out
- Sarah Morton’s Day– following the day of a Pilgrim girl, second book in the series (second only because I listed Tapenum’s Day first, there is no order to read them in)
- Samuel Eaton’s Day– another book in this series
- On the Mayflower– I discovered the author of _____’s Day also wrote 1621 Harvest feast and this book. I appreciate they have pictures for all of these
- The Mayflower– The prose does not stand out, but the illustrations. I love the illustrations
- The First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story– if you’re working on counting, this is a good story, but otherwise, nothing particularly stands out.
Thanksgiving history biographies
There are quite a few books for specific people you can find. Actually when I was working on our Massachusetts unit I had to limit the books I found for this topic.
- William Bradford– a good simple overview of a major player in the Plymouth colony
- Miles Standish: Let Freedom Ring– much like the William Bradford book, they’re in the same series, it’s a nice straightforward biography
- Priscilla Alden– a decent overview of her journey from England to America, and how hard the journey was. My only complaint is the way it was written, she seemed younger than she actually was, so the ending where she gets married a year or so later seemed like she married at 13, not as an adult
History of Thanksgiving books
This is an interesting category, and we actually have a couple of books. This category isn’t the events of the “First Thanksgiving,” but how we came to have the national holiday.
- Pardon That Turkey– an end-of-2nd-grade, early 3rd-grade book covering the woman who made Thanksgiving a holiday, and why we pardon turkeys
- The Story of Thanksgiving– this is a combination of why people have thanksgiving festivals around the world, why the United States has ours, and how it became a holiday. Decent writing and illustrations, but it doesn’t hugely stand out
- Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving– this book is fairly evenly split between the “history of the first Thanksgiving,” and why we celebrate Thanksgiving the way we do
- Giving Thanks– Nice illustrations to accompany how Sarah Hale turned Thanksgiving into a national holiday, nice illustrations, and decent prose
Fiction Thanksgiving history books
Okay, these books claim to be Thanksgiving history books, but from a different take, they can’t even come close to saying they are nonfiction like the Day in series of books, even though they’re fictional people, they are doing what real people might have done
- Plymouth Rocks!– the story from the point of view of “Plymouth Rock,” with extra facts added in by a “fact checker,” it’s a fun way to tell the story
- Across the Wide Dark Sea– this covers the same materials most of the nonfiction books, easily skipped
- Two Bad Pilgrims– a fun take on the story of the Pilgrims, this would be good for older kids where you want to cover the topic again, and they already know it and you want to challenge them to think beyond the original story