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A harvest of Thanksgiving books





Education World reviewed three Thanksgiving titles that would make great additions to any classroom or school library. Readers of all ages will learn about Thanksgiving traditions and about the spirit of cooperation in A Pioneer Thanksgiving and A Thanksgiving Wish. The youngest readers will enjoy learning about history and sharing with One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims.

Thanksgiving is a great time of year for making connections to the past and for emphasizing themes such as sharing and cooperation. Three new books are welcome additions for teaching those themes!

A Pioneer Thanksgiving - a story of harvest celebrations in 1841

A PIONEER THANKSGIVING Book Cover Image Barbara Greenwood weaves heartwarming stories with hands-on activities to provide readers in grades K-8 with an understanding of what Thanksgiving meant to the pioneering Robertson family in 1841. Today's readers will see many similarities in the ways they celebrate Thanksgiving while they learn to play games, concoct recipes, and create crafts as the Robertson children did.

A Pioneer Thanksgiving (Kids Can Press) opens as young Sarah is reading to Granny, whose health is failing. While Granny dozes, Sarah hatches a plan to fetch some cranberries to make a special sauce that Granny loves. The plan goes awry when Sarah must take along her younger sister, Lizzie. Lizzie trips and lands in the cranberry bog and nearly drowns. Greenwood uses that story to segue to a simple recipe -- one that could be made easily by kids in cooperative classroom groups -- for cranberry sauce. Other stories lead to additional made-for-home or -classroom activities.

  • A story about collecting nuts for a turkey stuffing segues to directions for playing Conkers, a popular children's game of the period, and to using pipe cleaners and yarn to create a "nutting basket."
  • After spinning yarns about Thanksgiving traditions and superstitions -- including how dolls made at harvesttime from the last stalks of wheat would be plowed under the next spring so the coming harvest would be fruitful -- Greenwood introduces an activity that engages kids in creating their own corn dolls.

Additional activities woven among informative stories have children making bread, creating weathervanes, and playing the Peach-Stone Game.

Heather Collins adds sepia-toned charcoal drawings that beautifully illustrate Greenwood's stories and provide step-by-step instruction for the book's hands-on activities.

A little history, a little literature, and some great kid-centered activities A Pioneer Thanksgiving is a cornucopia of fun!


A Thanksgiving Wish

A THANKSGIVING WISH Book Cover Image Thanksgiving was always a special time for young Amanda. Her grandmother Bubbe made it so. But this Thanksgiving, Bubbe is no longer with the family. Thanksgiving won't be the same without Bubbe's huge tom turkey, the stuffing made from her challah, and chicken soup with matzo balls so light they floated. Most of all, Amanda will miss the time just before bed when Bubbe and she made wishes before snapping the wishbone.

This Thanksgiving could never measure up to the happy Thanksgivings Amanda had shared with Bubbe. Or could it?

In A Thanksgiving Wish (Blue Sky Press/Scholastic), Michael J. Rosen weaves a poignant story as Amanda's family attempts to re-create the flavors of Thanksgivings past. Bubbe's worn recipe cards will help, but in the midst of the preparations, the power goes out. With ovens and microwaves cranking full steam, the overloaded fuse box can't keep up. The family has no replacement fuses on hand and no stores are open, so what will they do? The turkey is raw, the Thanksgiving pies are soupy, the soup is cold, and the potatoes are hard.

This is not the Thanksgiving Amanda had in mind.

Soon, however, a concerned neighbor who saw the darkened house knocks on the door, and a chain of events ensues that will save the day. A spirit of cooperation and caring -- of old traditions blending with new ones -- come together to make this Thanksgiving a memorable one.

John Thompson's paintings beautifully capture the spirit of the day and the memories of the past. Full-page paintings and scattered smaller illustrations evoke the feeling of a family photograph album.

A Thanksgiving Wish offers a wonderful starting point for classroom discussions of holiday rituals. After reading the book aloud, teachers might challenge students to share in their journals favorite family times from Thanksgivings past. Or students might bring in favorite family recipes to create a multicultural recipe book that would make a great holiday gift to take home.


One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims

ONE LITTLE, TWO LITTLE, THREE LITTLE PILGRIMS Book Cover Image "One little, two little, three little Pilgrims " sounds like the start to a politically incorrect nursery rhyme. But this little book from Viking/Penguin Group is actually a well-researched introduction for very young readers to the life and culture of the Pilgrims of Plimoth (now Plymouth, Massachusetts) and the neighboring Wampanoags.

As the nursery rhyme counts down to celebration time, we see young Pilgrims and Wampanoags busily doing chores, gathering food, and playing games. Each illustration teaches young readers about some aspect of life among the early settlers and their neighbors.

B. G. Hennesey's simple text is illustrated by Lynne Cravath. The cartoonlike illustrations might not seem the way to go for a story that has much to teach about real history. But look closely. Those cartoon Pilgrims and Native American children are sharing their own views as they relate to the preparation of the first harvest celebrations. Cravath enlisted the expertise of the research director at Plimoth Plantation (a re-creation of the first settlement) to ensure that her characters' clothing, hairstyles, canoes, dwellings, and even the hunting and fishing methods reflected the best knowledge about the time. The book closes with questions and answers that reveal much about the history of those first harvest celebrations.

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims is a delightful way to learn about history!

The three books highlighted in this week's Education World story are available in bookstores everywhere. If you are unable to locate a copy of the book you want, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly.

  • A Pioneer Thanksgiving, written by Barbara Greenwood and illustrated by Heather Collins, is published by Kids Can Press, 85 River Rock Drive, Suite 202, Buffalo, NY 14207.
  • A Thanksgiving Wish, written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by John Thompson, is published by Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc. Call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.
  • One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims, by B.G. Hennesey and illustrated by Lynne Cravath, is published by Viking, a member of the Penguin Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.


Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2015 Education World


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Updated 11/02/2011