Classical Childrens Books

Thanksgiving History

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Make these stories of Thanksgiving history for children part of your family heritage. Stories of the first Thanksgiving are told as well as tales of traditions celebrating this special day. These classic stories have been in print for more than 50 years or are noted otherwise.

More Ideas on Sharing Thanksgiving History with Your Kids at the Bottom of this Page

Classic Thanksgiving Stories For Kids

The Thanksgiving Story

By Alice Dalgliesh

History for Children
Age:1st - 3rd Grade
A beautiful story of the history of Thanksgiving with simple pictures and easy text. This book was published 25 years ago and is a Caldecott Honor book.

Who's That Stepping On Plymouth Rock?

By Jean Fritz

Age: 3rd - 4th grade
The landing of the Pilgrims at one of the most famous monuments in America. Ms. Fritz has an entertaining and informative style of writing.

Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims

By Clyde Robert Bulla

Age: 2nd - 5th Grade
Many children are familiar with Squanto, the Native American who helped the Pilgrims of Plymouth survive. This book tells the true and amazing story of how this man - the only Indian on the continent who could speak English - happened to be right there when the Pilgrims needed him. While this is a newer book and not yet a classic, it is an easy read for younger students to learn more about Thanksgiving history.

The Landing of the Pilgrims

James Daugherty

4th to 6th grade

This book for upper elementary provides greater detail of Plymouth Plantation than most other books for children. It explains the history in England and Holland before the passage, the first few winters, and more about the different tribes of Indians and who the Pilgrims befriended and who they did not. Readers will also learn about the ship loads of people who came after the first year without bringing supplies. Short quotes from the original works are sprinkled throughout the text. An excellent book for elementary (and older) students who would like more detail of Plymouth and the Mayflower passengers.

The Mayflower Secret

Dave and Neta Jackson

4th to 6th grade

This book in the Trailblazer Series is a little more modern (1998 publication) and follows the story of William Bradford and his first and second wives. It is based on the theory that his first wife, Dorothy, commit suicide - a popular theory in some circles. (There is no direct evidence for this except for the fact that the cause of death is not listed as it is for many of the others.) The main character is Elizabeth Tilley, a girl on the Mayflower whose parents both die the first winter. The actual Thanksgiving celebration is mentioned but not a major event in the book. This is a good book for those who are familiar with Plymouth and would like to read more about the people of the original colony.

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving

By Louisa May Alcott

Age: Read aloud for the entire family
Bad news changes the Thanksgiving plans for Farmer Bassett's family. But then the children decide to take matters into their own hands. From the author of "Little Women" and "Little Men" comes this tale of an "old fashioned Thanksgiving."

The Mayflower and the Pilgrim's New World

By Nathaneil Philbrick

Not a classic: Published 2008
Teens and above: 318 pages

This book takes the story past the events of the first few winters at Plymouth and includes King Phillip's War, fought by many of the kids of The Mayflower passengers. It takes a critical look at many of the actions of the pilgrims, without being an overt critic or enthusiastic fan. It does the same with the Indian chief referred to as King Phillip, attempting to understand the person rather than accuse or excuse.

My main fault with the narrative is the author's desire to draw a parallel between The Mayflower and the Seaflower,a slave ship that captured Indians in 1676. (The pilgrims did not come to make slaves of Indians, they did not make slaves of them, and the slave trade that was already functioning on a global scale was neither their focus nor their fault.)

The author has included photos and maps that make this an excellent resource for older readers who want to uncover a longer period of history of Plymouth. The book also includes an epilogue of Plymouth Rock. It provides an analysis of its history as a souvenoir - an analysis that neither supports or rejects the theory this was a rock used by the first settlers.

Of Plimoth Plantation

By William Bradford

You can't get a more authentic telling of thanksgiving history than this: a reproduction of the journal of William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth. I read this book several years ago, and while it is not entertaining or for young children, it is enlighting as to what the movers and shakers of that great event were thinking.

Thanksgiving Picture Books

Over the River and Through the Woods

By Lydia Maria Child

We all know the first verse of the beautiful classic Thanksgiving poem by Lydia Maria Child. Read the entire poem of an extended family's Thanksgiving get together. An illustrated version by Linda Ashman might be a great addition to your holiday reading.

The Story of the Pilgrims

Katharine Ross

Reading level: 3rd to 5th Grade

Interest Level: 1st to 5th Grade Nice pictures and basic text briefly tell the story from the departure from England to the first Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Thanksgiving

By Wende and Harry Devlin

The "Cranberry" picture books take place in a 1900 New England village where the retired sailor, Mr. Whiskers, lives. In this story the heroic - but misunderstood - Mr. Whiskers saves Thanksgiving dinner AND a secret family recipe.

Celebrating Thanksgiving With Your Kids

A Calendar Question

Here is a question we asked everyone at the table before serving the Thanksgiving meal last year:

"To the best of your memory, what were you doing July 22 - or around July 22 - of this year?"

It took some brain racking. Playing in the summer sun; visiting Grandma; trips to our favorite swimming pool. It was a while ago, right?

On July 22, the pilgrims boarded the Mayflower in Plymouth, England and headed for the New World. They reached the shores of New England on November 11.

Everything you have done since July - they couldn't do. They were stuck on a ship.

During that time, 102 passengers (plus the ship's crew) lived on the lower deck of the ship. The passengers had to stay below - rarely going on the upper deck.

Let's Measure

Compare the size of the Mayflower to your house or yard or patio. Consider all those people living crowded for that length of time.

Pass The Corn

In addition to the name tags people expect to see at the Thanksgiving table, we also had little cups with 13 kernels of corn.

The pilgrims started their Thanksgiving feast with 13 kernels. This was a reminder that that was their daily allowance of food through the final months of that long, hard winter.

Of course, almost half of them died, leaving a little extra for the surviving 53 individuals.

And these are the people who remind us to be thankful.

Authentic Foods

A disclaimer: While I have the following book and find it interesting to read, I have not ventured so far out to actually do the authentic Plymouth cooking. I DO like my crock pot and modern oven.

However, I did visit Plymouth Plantation and watched them bake over old-fashioned ovens as they try to recreate the family life as close to reality as possible.

Both of these books are available at the official site of or from other book sellers.

Plimoth Plantation
1627 Autumn Recipes

By Paula Marcoux

Enjoy the salad of cress, native corn pudding, and boiled wild duck that the pilgrims ate. Or just read about it.

The Plimoth Colony Cookbook

The official cookbook of the Plymouth Antiquarian Society is a combination of original and modified recipes that have been handed down. Includes descriptions of the pilgrim kitchen, the first Thanksgiving, and The First Forefather's Day (Dec 22 - day of landing on Plymouth Rock.) We try to make one new item each year for our Thanksgiving table from this book.

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