From the Pilgrims to the Rocky and Bullwinkle float in the Macy’s parade
Thanksgiving: A True Book. By Dana Meachen Rau. Grolier/Children’s Press, 48 pp., varied prices. Ages 7 and up (for independent reading), younger for reading aloud.
By Janice Harayda
My parents once required my younger brothers to wear homemade Pilgrim hats, fashioned from rolled black construction paper, while my grandmother carved our holiday turkey. So it’s probably safe to say that they spared few visual effects to help their children understand the meaning of Thanksgiving.
But my parents didn’t prepare us for at least one ironclad tradition: As soon as the meal ended – and sometimes before it ended – all the men in our family would get up from the table and go into living room to watch a football game. And many children’s books approach Thanksgiving as my parents did: Their explanations focus on the Pilgrims, turkey and pumpkin pie, and giving thanks with family and friends.
Dana Meachen Rau casts a wider net in her documentary–style Thanksgiving: A True Book, which uses archival images and color photographs to introduce the holiday. She begins with the story of the Pilgrims and Indians at Plymouth Colony (and includes a picture of Plymouth Rock as it appears today). Then she tells how Thanksgiving became a national holiday and describes modern traditions associated with it: going to church, playing touch football, watching the Macy’s parade. In the last pages, she shows volunteers serving a holiday meal at a homeless shelter – a nice reminder that there’s more than one way to express gratitude.
Thanksgiving: A True Book is intended for elementary-school students, but some preschoolers may enjoy the photos, especially a full-page picture of Rocky and Bullwinkle in the Macy’s parade. Rau takes a straightforward, no-frills approach to Thanksgiving, apparently intended for classroom use, that may help children doing their first school units on the holiday.
Published: 2000 Thanksgiving: A True Book is out of print but available online and in libraries. You may also want to read the Nov. 18, 2007, post about documentary picture books on Thanksgiving that remain in print www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/11/18/.
Best line/picture: The photo of volunteers, including children, serving Thanksgiving dinner out of big aluminum-foil pans at a homeless shelter.
Worst/line picture: Families who see Thanksgiving as a strictly secular holiday may want to skip the photos of people saying grace and singing a hymn in church. But those pictures may appeal to families whose celebrations have a religious component that picture books rarely acknowledge so directly.
Furthermore: Rau also wrote Christmas: A True Book, Kwanzaa: A True Book and Halloween: A True Book.
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.