As Halloween drew to a close, I started getting flooded with requests for Thanksgiving books.
I compiled this list of Thanksgiving books several years ago but have updated it this year. I’ve taken some of the Thanksgiving books that previously appeared on this list off (ones that inaccurately depict the events of 1621 or are very one-sided) and added several that are more inclusive of Native voices.
I’ve been doing a ton of reading and research on this topic and feel hugely inadequate to even begin to address this, but if you’re interested in Native perspectives on Thanksgiving, Oyate is a really great resource.
American Indians in Children’s Literature is also a fantastic site that is a wealth of information about books for children that depict Native Peoples and recommends or doesn’t recommend many titles (and helps you understand why some books are problematic and why others are worth reading with your children or students).
I have as much to learn about this topic as anyone and it’s a work in progress for me to become better informed and more aware of the myths and stereotypes that surround this holiday (which is a day of mourning for many Native people).
These eleven Thanksgiving books for kids celebrate Native voices, gratitude, the changing seasons, and gathering with friends and family for a feast.
If you know of other great Thanksgiving books, I’d love to hear!
My favorite Thanksgiving books
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet
This is, hands down, my favorite Thanksgiving picture book (so much so that I wrote an entire post about it, which I rarely do about picture books). Melissa Sweet’s illustrations always blow me away, plus in this book, you get to see her amazing research and writing chops too. The Macy’s Parade is a Thanksgiving staple, but I had no idea how it got started, and this book made watching it even more fun.
Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Greg Shed
This book does a great job giving context for the first Thanksgiving feast and how the interactions between the European settlers and the Native Americans were sometimes peaceful and collaborative and other times violent and hostile. The illustration are beautiful in this one too – I bought a copy for my collection this year!
Over the River and Through the Wood by L. Maria Child and Matt Tavares
If you’re looking for a gorgeous picture book, the kind you’ll have as a display all season long, this is the one. Makes me almost love the idea of living somewhere with snow (except, you know, not really).
We Are Grateful/Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac
This gorgeous book, which garnered an impressive list of awards when it came out last year, focuses on the word “otsaliheliga” which is a Cherokee word that means gratitude and how the Cherokee Nation celebrates a year, starting in the fall when a new year begins.
One is a Feast for a Mouse by Judy Cox and Jeffrey Ebbeler
I love this cute little story about a mouse who goes to get a single pea from the leftover Thanksgiving feast, but then he starts getting more and more things, leaving him ill-prepared to run when the cat makes an appearance.
Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano, illustrated by Lee Harper
This one is more than 10 years old but we read it for the first time last year and my girls thought it was HILARIOUS as the turkey tries to avoid detection by disguising himself as other farm animals in an attempt to NOT be the main dish.
Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Matt Faulkner
Sarah Hale worried that Thanksgiving Day was dying out and she made it her personal mission to make it a national holiday. She spent 38 years writing letters to five U.S. presidents in a row, attempting to convince them, but she didn’t succeed until Abraham Lincoln finally responded to her letters during the Civil War. This book is one of those magical biographies that is well-written, interesting, and even funny. (Sarah Gives Thanks is another excellent biography about Sarah Hale).
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup Jr.
This book is more than 20 years old, but does a beautiful job sharing the Thanksgiving Address that the Iroquois use in an annual ceremony giving thanks.
You are My Little Pumpkin Pie by Amy E. Sklansky and Talitha Shipman
This little board book has been a favorite Thanksgiving book at our house for the past few years – we actually own two copies! It’s just a sweet little love note to babies that smell like cinnamon and spice and are just as delicious as a good slice of pumpkin pie.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
This was our VERY favorite Thanksgiving book last year and my 3 year old asked for it on repeat for weeks. It’s such a sweet story of a modern Native American family and what Fry Bread means to them and their history.
And if you’d like a printable copy of this list that you can take to your library or screenshot on your phone for easy access, just pop in your email address below and it’ll come right to your inbox!