It took me no time whatsoever to come up with an idea for this post... and to be honest, it was a post I was going to do anyway... but now I'm going to sort of cheat a little bit and also shoe-horn my original post idea into my League post! So how am I going to "talk turkey" here today? I'm going to feature:
The Top Ten Favorite Children's Thanksgiving Books at Our House
(In order of Turkey-ocity)
10. Giving Thanks by Jonathan London and Gregory Manchess
I am not a religious person. This post is not here to push this point, but I feel like I need to explain why this book speaks to me so clearly. I do not frown upon religion, but when I am picking out books about Thanksgiving, I really like to find books that back away from the subject of specifically thanking God. I'm not an atheist exactly, as it seems impossible to me that life is all just accidents and "science!" But when I am expressing thanks for the things in my life, I am not exactly specifying a deity that I am thankful to. To me, "giving thanks" is a way of showing ourselves and those around us how much we appreciate and value... well, everything. This book really feels like an extension of that worldview in that the boy and his father who star in the book take a walk through the forest and express thanks for all the things around them, but not once does it specify who they are thanking. It's a nice story that really focuses on appreciating the world around us, and being thankful for the fact that it exists. There are a hawk, a jackrabbit, some quail, a deer, and a fox that all appear in this book, but NOT ONE SINGLE TURKEY. Which pushes this one back into the 10-spot.
9. Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
This book is part of a series of books that are pretty heart-felt and great. In this story Bear wants to have an autumn feast for all his little woodland friends, to show them how much he appreciates them. But unfortunately, he can't seem to rustle up much grub. THANKFULLY each of his little buddies show up with a collection of some delicious woodland delicacy to give to him because they feel exactly the same way about HIM! So in the end, a feast is indeed had, woodland-creature-potluck style, and it's pretty much as adorable as you'd expect. None of these animals is a turkey, nor do they eat turkey... so pfft. 9-spot.
8. Circle of Thanks by Susi Gregg Fowler and Peter Catalanotto
This book strongly endorses the "pay-it forward" mentality. The story involves a boy and his mother who live in the cold north (I assumed Alaska? The book only specifically mentions "the tundra" so I have no idea) and the animals who live around them. The mother and son live a pretty secluded life in with only the animals to remind them they are not alone. One spring, the mother rescues a newborn otter pup from drowning, expecting (and getting) no thanks from the animal. But the chain reaction of "thanks" that effects birds, and caribou, and fox until it eventually comes full circle back to the boy and his mother on one particularly cold and dangerous night is pretty amazing to read about. This is the kind of book that doesn't really talk about what we give thanks for, but instead talks about all the reasons we should do things that others can feel thankful for, and maybe inspire them to do the same for someone else. Oh, also no turkeys.
7. Happy Thanksgiving Curious George by Cynthia Platt, Julie M. Bartynski, and Mary O'Keefe Young
It wouldn't be one of my holiday children's book lists without having a poetry collection or two, right? Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of original, classic storybook characters (like George here) being continued into books after the original creator is dead. It smacks a little of Fred Astaire dancing with and selling vacuum cleaners years after he's dead. Can you imagine them creating a series of books based on Max from Where the Wild Things Are for instance? But the Curious George machine has been grinding on for a ver long time now... and Mary O'Keefe Young's illustrations are incredibly dead on for H.A. Rey's style, which is nice... and the poems are just so perfect for the holiday that I can't help but like them anyway. There are seven poems in all, each one marked with a tab on the right. Every topic from watching the parade, to setting the table, preparing the food, and being thankful are covered. This book also has the honor of being the first one on this list to actually include a turkey! We watch the Man in the Yellow Hat prep the turkey and put it in the oven, and then we see it as a part of the Thanksgiving feast.
6. Let's Eat by Constance Allen and David Prebenna
It also wouldn't be a Goodwill Geek Thanksgiving without some Sesame Street (or at least Muppet) involvement!!! Now, nowhere in this book does it state that the story has anything to do with Thanksgiving. BUT Cookie Monster prepares an entire feast for his Sesame Street friends that includes turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Then they all sit down and watch football afterwards. I CHALLENGE you to tell me this is not a Thanksgiving dinner being prepared and enjoyed. What I especially like about this book is that it goes through the entire process of preparing a big dinner for friends, from cleaning the house, shopping for supplies, actually preparing the food and all the inherent dangers therein (onions and pepper give Cookie a run for his money), setting the table (I have referred to the picture in this book more than once to help me remember a proper place-setting), making polite conversation before dinner, eating together, and cleaning up together. And then in true Cookie Monster fashion (and in the great tradition of Sesame Street characters breaking the fourth wall in books) he devours the very book you are reading. There is significant Turkey presence in this one, and I always wonder if Big Bird eats any of it. They only show him eating peas and what appear to be yams or sweet potatoes... but you can't see his plate either. Either way, he's just sitting there cheerily watching all his friends devour some relative of his...
5. One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B.G. Hennessy and Lynne Cravath
Books 4 and 5 on this list both caution readers that there might not even have been turkey at the first Thanksgiving... but both have a turkey on the cover, front and literally center. They also both deal with the preparations for the first Thanksgiving feast on both the Pilgrim and Wampanoag sides of the story. The book featured above does it in a much more sing-song style, telling of the work to be done in a "10 Little Indians" style rhyme. The artwork is more cartoony than the next book, but in a really nice, modern-looking style that is fun and bright and engaging. I still like including stories of the Pilgrims and Native Americans in our Thanksgiving traditions, even though it tends to smooth over all the dark days to follow. This book (and again, the book that follows) really just focuses on the celebration of the first Thanksgiving that inspired the holiday we enjoy today, without getting into the harsh, gritty realities. And Turkeys get their own One little, two little... verse of the song, so that's nice.
4. This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story by Laura Krauss Melmed and Mark Buehner
While One Little, Two Little... above is a lighter and quicker read, this book is a little more involved. The artwork is more detailed and the story itself is a bit longer. Overall it is very similar to the previous book, but the differences are in the details. For instance, we love looking together for the hidden animals in every illustration in this book, and the human moments between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag are better expressed, as we see scenes like two Native American girls giggling into their hands shyly as they walk past a Pilgrim boy. These two books both give us well illustrated scenes of every day life back in the time of the first Thanksgiving. Overall, a couple of our favorite Thanksgiving books. (And yes, there are turkeys!)
3. It's Thanksgiving by Jack Prelutsky and Marylin Hafner
Prelutsky and Hafner have a great series of Holiday themed poetry books, and this book is a nice addition to that series. It focuses on many Thanksgiving traditions and even finishes off with a poem about left-over turkey! We hear about the parade again, watch as Dad demolishes the turkey as he tries to carve it, watch Dad again as he yells at the TV during a football game, and wonder why Turkeys don't smarten up and leave town before Thanksgiving gets here. Prelutsky is one of my absolute favorite children's poets, falling behind only Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. He has a magical way with words that beautifully showcases things about Thanksgiving that we might normally think of as mundane, in a whole new and heart-warming way.
2. A Turkey For Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting and Diane de Groat
Eve Bunting has gotten a lot of love for her Halloween books here on the Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks blog... but she doesn't just do skeletons and haunted houses. This Thanksgiving tale actually focuses on a group of animal friends who are desperate to find a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. The motivation behind wanting the turkey is actually where the story takes a twist, because Mrs. Moose sends her husband out to find a turkey to SHARE their Thanksgiving dinner with them, NOT to serve as the main course. Which, when you look at the cast of herbivores that go out looking for the turkey... it really only makes sense. But my boys were genuinely and delightfully surprised by the ending of this book, as it turns the whole idea of what a Thanksgiving dinner is really all about completely on its head... or perhaps it focuses on what a Thanksgiving dinner should be about once we get the idea of it just being about consuming turkey out of the way.
1. A Plump and Perk Turkey by Teresa Bateman and Jeff Shelly
The final book is actually one of my very favorite Thanksgiving books in general, and THANKFULLY it just happens to star a Turkey, making it the perfect star of the number 1 spot! The town of Squawk Valley is experiencing a turkey shortage this Thanksgiving, and they will be forced to make shredded wheat their main course if they can't find a turkey to eat at the Thanksgiving feast. So they cook up a plot: Stage a fake craft fair and contest featuring turkeys as their muse! They attract the attention of a turkey named Pete, who agrees to pose as a model for the aspiring artists, and then judge the winner of the contest. (There are SO many ridiculous plot-holes I have to turn my brain off just a little when we read this one, but believe me, it's worth it!) Well Pete pretty effectively turns the tables on the folks of Squawk Valley, and the ending is pretty great. The poetry used to tell the entire story is cleverly rhymed and energetically paced so the story never drags or gets boring.
Here they all are, folks:
And because I'm feeling generous, here's 10 other awesome books we do around Thanksgiving every year, but I didn't feel like writing about: (be honest, would you have sat and read my top 20 Thanksgiving Kid's books? No, I didn't think so.)
So that's it for me talking turkey tonight you guys!
We'll take a look at what he rest of the League wants to put out there (if they do, it being Thanksgiving week and all) as soon as there are some posts to share! I'll be back soon with some Geeky Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Hunting (and Happy Thanksgiving!)