Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Best of...the Thanksgiving books

When it comes to holiday gatherings, it can be hard to choose the perfect holiday book to bring along - do you want to explain the origin of Thanksgiving, rejoice in the season change, or have a few chuckles with a frantic turkey? Here are a few of my favorites, from the serious to the silly.

For the younger readers, ages 2 to 5, my favorite is One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B.G. Hennessy, illustrated by Lynne Cravath. The simple tale follows the familiar children's rhyme of "ten little Indians,"depicting both Wampanoag and Pilgrim children working hard throughout the year and celebrating their fruitful harvest.

For preschoolers with a sense of humor, I like Run, Turkey, Run by Diane Mayr, illustrated by Laura Rader. This quirky picture book encourages participation: "If Turkey swims in the water,/will the farmer think he's a duck?" kids can chorus, "NO! RUN, TURKEY, RUN!" I also like this book's vegetarian perspective, with the turkey eventually escaping his fate as dinner: "Turkey gives thanks!"

Scholastic is a school standby, and their non-fiction series "Day in the life..." are surefire hits for elementary level kids. Try either Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters, or for a girl's perspective, Sarah Morton's Day, or the Wampanoag side, Tapenum's Day. Each book is full of detailed photographs of pilgrim/Wampanoag clothing, daily activities like sewing, hunting, or gathering mussels, and is written in the dialect of that era, with a glossary at the back.

Waiting for Winter by German author/illustrator Sebastian Meschenmoser is one of the more gorgeous books about the changing of the seasons. Squirrel has heard of this mysterious winter phenomenon called "snow," and tries to stay awake through the cold season to see it. His friends hedgehog and bear are also intrigued, and they find various objects they take to be snow (a sock? tin cans?), until the first magical snow storm sets them straight. Meschenmoser blends humor and beauty here to make a perfectly sweet snow story.

Considering that my favorite part of this time of year is how often my folks visit, one of my favorite fall books is Applesauce Season, by Eden Ross Lipson with illustrations from prolific Mordicai Gerstein. This book always makes me crave boisterous family parties and pie. As the apple season progresses, this family makes a variety of applesauces, apple crepes, and in memory of Grandpa's birthday, apple pie with ice cream. Mmmm.

In the chapter book room, Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky reigns supreme with humorous Thanksgiving poems in the early reader It's Thanksgiving! My favorite poem might be "I Ate Too Much" (a common problem at our dessert loving house), with the lines: "I ate too much pudding and pie, I'm stuffed up with muffins/and much too much stuffin',/ I'm probably going to die."

Pardon That Turkey by Susan Sloate is a non-fiction early reader that explains how Sarah Hale petitioned for years to make Thanksgiving a holiday, as well as the legend of Lincoln's presidential pardon of a turkey. I always find it impressive when beginning reader non-fiction can convey enough facts within the set vocabulary, and this title from the All Aboard Reading series is certainly successful there.

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