One-Minute Book Reviews

November 18, 2007

Good Picture Books About Thanksgiving for Children Ages 4 and Up

Popular authors show how Pilgrim boys and girls — and their parents — lived

By Janice Harayda

A lot of families must have given thanks for The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving (Scholastic, $4.99, paperback, ages 4–8), because this lively picture book is still selling well on Amazon and elsewhere after more than three decades in print. And no wonder. This may the best book for anyone who is looking for a traditional Thanksgiving story that touches all the familiar bases – the voyage of the Mayflower, the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, the help the settlers received from Squanto, and the feast that marked the successful harvest of 1621.

Ann McGovern tells an engaging story salted with details easy for children to grasp. The Mayflower was “as big as two trucks,” and its passengers had little tableware after they went ashore: “There were no forks. The Pilgrims used shells for spoons.” And unlike some recent books that expunge all references to the early settlers’ faith, McGovern makes clear in a low-keyed way that this is partly a story of religious freedom: The Pilgrims, she says, “left their old country because they could not pray the way they wanted.” Elroy Freem, the pen name of a veteran picture-book artist, illustrates the book with warm tones that help to make this an upbeat story despite hardships of life in the Plymouth Colony.

Kate Waters takes a more contemporary approach in her deservedly popular Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl, Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy and Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times (Scholastic, about $5.99 each, paperback, ages 4 and up) In these appealing books she uses documentary-style color photographs to describes the lives of a Pilgrim girl and boy and a Native American boy of their era.

Waters’s books about Pilgrim times are popular in schools, particularly in the second and third grades, so by searching the Web you can find teachers’ guides with related activities you can adapt at home. Their stories have a natural appeal this week, but don’t forget them next year when you want to get children excited about a trip to a historical museum or village.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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