Don’t Gobble Up Everything You Read About Thanksgiving!

posted on November 10, 2016 by Eve Panzer

The story of Thanksgiving is just that – a story. There are differing views of the accuracy of the story of the “First Thanksgiving” in 1621. The accounts by the colonist who came to America and the accounts of the native people are often conflicting. If you would like to read about the native point of view about Thanksgiving, I suggest you read this article: “Deconstructing the Myths of ‘The First Thanksgiving'”by Judy Dow (Abenaki). At the end of that article there are is a list of “Recommended Books about Thanksgiving” and “Primary Sources from a Colonialist Perspective”.
The establishment of a national day of thanksgiving in the U.S. is haphazard at best. Here are some of the facts:

  • The National Constitution Center finds 1777 is the earliest mention of a Day of Thanksgiving in the United States and the next is in 1789. Neither of these celebrations was held to commemorate a feast held by the early European settlers.
  • “The national holiday did not begin with the Pilgrims. In 1777 the Continental Congress declared the first national day of Thanksgiving, following the American victory at Saratoga, which by historical consensus was a good day for the country.
  • The holiday has many fathers, including the father of our country. George Washington became the first president to proclaim a Thanksgiving holiday, when in 1789 he set aside November 26, a Tuesday, as a day of thanksgiving for adoption of the U.S. Constitution, another good day for the country.”

Thanksgiving in the U.S. was not celebrated on a consistent basis until Abraham Lincoln made declared in a national holiday in 1863. “He’s [Lincoln] the father of the whole idea of a nation giving thanks for its advantages and privileges of living in a democracy like this,” Harold Holzer, historian and chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. Lincoln hoped this day of thanksgiving would help the divided country.

Once again, we are a much divided nation.

So I propose to make Thanksgiving Day just that – a day of thanksgiving. And like Lincoln I hope this will help our divided country. This seems more in line with historical intent of this day in the United States. Discuss with students, family and friends what you are all thankful for in your lives. Tying this holiday to their own stories will make it more relevant to children/students.

I would welcome your input on this topic. Write me.

I will continue to post on books about holidays in the months to come. Stay tuned by reading this blog. 

Instead of review a book for this blog post, I want to suggest some titles that can lead to a rich discussion about being thankful:

The Thankful BookThe Thankful Book by Todd Parr*

“…The Thankful Book celebrates all the little things children can give thanks for. From everyday activities like reading and bath time to big family meals together and special alone time between parent and child, Todd inspires readers to remember all of life’s special moments. The perfect book to treasure and share, around the holidays and throughout the year.”

I am thankful for music because it makes me want to dance. I am thankful for my feet because they help me run and play. I am thankful for kisses because they make me feel loved.

· Age Range: 3 – 6 years
· Hardcover: 32 pages
· Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 9/16/12 edition (October 16, 2012)
· ISBN-13: 978-0316181013

Look and Be GreatefulLook and Be Grateful by Tomie dePaola*

“In this meditative and joyful book, a young boy awakens with the dawn, opens his eyes and looks closely at his world. He admires all that surrounds him, large and small, from the radiant sun to a tiny, but exquisite, lady bug.”
“Today is today, and it is a gift,” writes Tomie dePaola. “Simply told, penned in graceful hand-lettering and illustrated with jewel-like paintings, this inspiring picture book encourages each one of us to be thankful.”

· Age Range: 3 – 5 years
· Hardcover: 32 pages
· Publisher: Holiday House (August 10, 2015)
· ISBN-13: 978-0823434435

Gracias-ThanksGracias/Thanks by Pat Mora*

“In a series of poetic sentences, a young boy (biracial Mexican/Caucasian) tells about some of the everyday things for which he is thankful. Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, ¡Gracias! Thanks!”


Age Range: 5 – 9 years
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Lee & Low Books; Bilingual edition (October 20, 2009)
Language: English, Spanish
ISBN-13: 978-1600602580

How Many Days to AmericaHow Many Days to America: A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting*

From School Library Journal
“It was nice in our village. Till the night in October when the soldiers came.” Thus begins a modern-day exodus story as a Caribbean family joins others in a small boat on a dangerous journey. From a child’s-eye point of view, it tells the moving story of people who are willing to give up everything, risk everything, for freedom. This is an unusual Thanksgiving book that can be used at any time of the year. It reminds us that we have modern-day pilgrims coming to our shores for much the same reasons, and that living in a free land is something for which we can be truly thankful.-Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA
· Age Range: Kindergarten-Grade 4
· Paperback: 32 pages
· Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (October 1, 1990)
· ISBN-13: 978-0395547779

Molly's PilgrimMolly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen*

From School Library Journal
Molly, a young Russian Jewish immigrant, feels that she doesn’t belong and will never belong in America. Her third grade classmates make fun of her accent, her dress, her customs and mock her with a sing-song rhyme, “Jol-ly Mol-ly, Your eyes are awf’ly small. Jol-ly Mol-ly, Your nose is awf’ly tall.” With the help of a loving mother and the understanding of a sensitive teacher, Molly earns class recognition and, finally, happiness. Her clothespin Pilgrim doll resembles her Russian mother more than a traditional Pilgrim, for her mother is indeed a pilgrim who came to America for religious freedom. This story will encourage dialogue and lively discussions on numerous topics: American values, tolerance, religious freedom, Thanksgiving traditions, Jewish customs and holidays.” -Patricia Mahoney Brown, Franklin Elementary School, Kenmore, NY
· Age Range: 6 – 10 years
· Paperback: 32 pages
· Publisher: HarperCollins; Revised edition (April 26, 2005)
· ISBN-13: 978-0688162801


I Know_an-Old Lady who Swallowed a PieI Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson*

From School Library Journal
PreSchool-K. In a holiday version of a familiar children’s song, an old lady swallows a dry Thanksgiving pie and a succession of other foods, beginning with an entire jug of cider to moisten the pie. Although the cider rumbles and grumbles agreeably inside her, the other foods are not related. The woman swallows a salad to go with a squash, a pot to go with a turkey, and a 10-layer cake to go with the pot. Jackson’s version …fun of rhymes such as “Her future looked murky, after that turkey” and an ending that shows the old lady as a giant balloon in a Thanksgiving Parade as she finally says, “I’m full.” Jackie Hechtkopf, Talent House School, Fairfax, VA
· Age Range: 3 – 7 years
· Paperback: 32 pages
· Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (September 16, 2002)
· ISBN-13: 978-0140565959

*Please note that links to are to my store and I appreciate your support of my business.

Raves & Praise from educators and readers about Eve Panzer, the Barefoot Librarian:

Faced with the wealth of incredible books available for children, many educators can feel overwhelmed when it comes to choosing titles for the classroom. If you’re a teacher who doesn’t want to resort to the dartboard method, the Barefoot Librarian is your new best friend!

-Audrey Linter, Blogger, Little Pickle Press