Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together, express gratitude for all the good in their lives, and try to get to dessert before the kids’ table starts flinging mashed potatoes like the rabid little monkeys they are. You’ll never hold their attention through everyone’s, “What I’m thankful for this year,” but you can try to teach them why America takes off one Thursday every November to gorge on turkey and football while surrounded by the people they love (and sometimes even like). Start reading them these books now, and by Turkey Day they’ll be volunteering to help set the table. Or at least keeping their mashed potatoes to themselves.
ThankfulA simple, quiet rhyming list of the everyday blessings, for which each member of a family is thankful. In other words, the exact opposite of your Thanksgiving dinner table. The final 2-page spread spotlights the children who are grateful for the stories their parents read them, lest you need a reminder, too.
Thankful by Eileen Spinelli and Archie Preston ($11)
Thank You, SarahDid you know that Thanksgiving almost disappeared until “a dainty little lady” who wrote “Mary Had A Little Lamb” took on 4 presidents over 35 years and finally got Lincoln to declare it a national holiday in 1863? Your kid didn’t, either, so make sure you cut a memorial slice of pie for Sarah Hale this year.
Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson and Matt Faulkner ($7)
Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving StoryAnother rhyming story following individual family members, but this time describing each person’s job at a turn-of-the-century Thanksgiving feast. Mama tends the bird, brother bastes it, sister kneads dough, and Daddy builds the fire, because it’s 1910 and they didn’t have deep fat fryers yet. Show your kids what Thanksgiving was like before football and couches turned it into a nationwide nap.
Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller and Jill McElmurry ($12)
The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, Or John Howland’s Good FortuneBased on historical fact and told in the first person, this story follows John Howland’s journey from London to New England aboard the Mayflower in 1620 — mostly aboard, anyway. A bit long and better suited for older kids, it’s nevertheless an incredible story of survival and resilience. If John and his shipmates could survive that winter to the first Thanksgiving, you can host your in-laws for an afternoon.
The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, Or John Howland’s Good Fortune by P. J. Lynch ($13)
Sophie’s SquashAfter a family trip to the farmer’s market, a little girl adopts a butternut squash that was meant for dinner and names it Bernice, and a new fall parable is born. With this book, you can teach your child lessons about growth and rejuvenation, eating their vegetables, what a butternut squash is, and when it’s time to let the sandwich go. (Suggestion noted.)
Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf ($13)
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story Of The Puppeteer Of Macy’s ParadeThis picture book biography recalls how a self-taught artist from London rescued the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, after its original live animal attractions scared the bejesus out of little kids. In 1928, Broadway puppeteer Tony Sarg created the balloon floats that are now an indelible part of the holiday tradition (and still occasionally scare the bejesus out of little kids).
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story Of The Puppeteer Of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet ($11)
One Is A Feast For A MouseThis book is perfect if your kids enjoy slapstick comedy or if you want a scaled down-but-still-sobering reminder of just how much food you plan to cram down your face hole at Thanksgiving dinner. “One is a feast for me,” the mouse declares. Good for you, mouse. The rest of us will be going back for seconds.
One Is A Feast For a Mouse by Judy Cox and Jeffrey Ebbeler ($7)
Squanto’s JourneyEveryone knows about Mayflowers, pilgrims, and turkeys, but that’s only half of the first Thanksgiving story. What about the man who welcomed said pilgrims and taught them to survive on said turkeys? More likely geese and ducks, but still, Squanto saved the pilgrims’ asses after being kidnapped and sold into slavery by the English and miraculously returning home just in time for more disease-ridden colonists to show up. This one’s the ultimate lesson in honor.
Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac and Greg Shed ($6)
Turkey TroubleA frightened turkey tries every disguise in the book to avoid the hungry farmer, who wants nothing more than to Elmer Fudd his ass right onto the Thanksgiving table. You and your kid laugh, because even though it’s kind of sad, funny is funny, and a turkey looking terrified while trying to blend in with tomatoes is funny.
Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper ($8)
A Plump And Perky TurkeyWhen the people of Squawk Valley find themselves outsmarted by cunning turkeys, they create a fake want ad to lure them out of hiding. The ask: a model to help a sculptor create turkey art, which you know isn’t a thing, but turkeys aren’t you. Your kid gets the first laugh when it works on the festively plump Petey, but he gets the last laugh on a turkey-filled tropical beach.
A Plump And Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman and Jeff Shelly ($9)