The Thanksgiving traditions of Americans living in the twenty-first century would likely be nearly unrecognizable to those that sailed on the Mayflower and shared that feast of thanks with the natives after surviving that first long winter. Sure, some of the foods may be similar, but there certainly weren’t parades and football and the pilgrims and Wampanoag didn’t have the luxury of having their choice of pies for dessert.
Though much has changed through the years since Myles Standish, John Alden, William Bradford and the others came to the shores of north America in search of religious freedom and free land, the sentiment remains the same. Being thankful for the blessings of everyday and the loved ones both near and far never goes out of style. For preschoolers and those just beginning to read on their own, the San Francisco Children’s Fiction Examiner provides the following list of books about both the pilgrims that came to Plymouth Rock and those that were already living in what would become the United States.
Thanksgiving board books for babies, toddlers and preschoolers
“Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation” by Diane Stanley and Holly Berry (HarperCollins, 2004) This title in The Time-Traveling Twins series has twins Liz and Lenny traveling back in time to the year 1621. While at Plymouth Plantation, they experience the three-day festival with those that really lived it. No jellied cranberry sauce and marshmallow-covered yams are to be found and instead the twins have to eat boiled eels and other yucky stuff.
“The Very First Thanksgiving Day” by Rhonda Gowler Greene and Susan Gaber (Atheneum, 2002) Told in rhyming text similar to that of “This is the House that Jack Built,” young readers will enjoy the repetitive text as they learn more and more about what took place on the first Thanksgiving.
“Pilgrim Cat” by Carol Antoinette Peacock and Doris Ettlinger (Albert Whitman & Company, 2004) Faith Barrett is traveling to the new world on the Mayflower with her family. As the ship departs from the dock, a cat chasing a mouse jumps aboard and Faith soon names him Pounce. The journey from England across the Atlantic to North America is told from the perspective of Pounce and Faith.
“The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving From A To Z” by Laura Crawford and Judith Hierstein (Pelican Publishing, 2005) The story of why and how Europeans came to the new world and the joys and hardships they experienced once in their new home is told in simple text that young readers can understand. Colorful images perfectly illustrate each letter of the alphabet.
“Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl” by Kate Waters and Russ Kendall (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2008) What was it like to be a child living in an early American settlement in 1627? Although the story takes place a few years after the first Thanksgiving, life for those living in the new world is much the same. With full color photographs, the story is even more realistic for beginning readers.
“Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy In Pilgrim Times” by Kate Waters and Russ Kendall (Scholastic Press, 1996) While the Europeans who sailed to America had one set of experiences, the people who were already living near Plimouth, the Wampanoag, had an entirely different set of experiences. This book tells what life was like for Tapenum, a young boy who had never seen white people until the pilgrims arrived. With full color illustrations, the history of the Wampanoag people comes alive.
“The Littlest Pilgrim” by Brandi Dougherty and Kirsten Richards (Cartwheel Books, 2008) Mini is the youngest member of her family and although she wants to help everyone with their chores, she is always being told she is too small or too young. She finally encounters someone, on the day of the special feast, who doesn’t tell her she is too small. In fact, this person thinks Mini is perfect just the way she is.
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