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 Thanksgiving book 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!
Any Thanksgiving picture books to recommend? I’d love to add to my collection, which is nowhere near as good as my Halloween or Christmas collection.
I remember #2, I loved that book.
We love to share 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey with our school-age kids. And I love All for Pie, Pie for All by David Martin (which is not technically a Thanksgiving book, but hey PIE). And I know Todd Parr appeals to a certain taste, but he just put out The Thankful Book.
Thanks for the suggestions! I'm looking forward to finding Balloons over Broadyway.
My mom sent me Off to Plymouth Rock by Dandi Daley Mackall for Anna's first Thanksgiving. It is a nice, rollicking poem in board book form. My kids love it. The illustrations aren't really my style, but they are detailed and engaging.
My four year old was just enchanted with Little Bear's Thanksgiving by Janice. (Yes, just Janice) It's so 60's and the illustrations are very sweet.
Oh, I love Balloons Over Broadway ~ I never thought of it as a Thanksgiving book which is kind of silly. It totally is! We're vegetarians in this house so we particularly like 'Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving. So cute! But I do agree with you that there are not enough GOOD Thanksgiving books out there!
It's Thanksgiving is a book of Jack Prelutsky poems. Thanksgiving at the Tappletons' is one of my favorites. P is for Pilgrim is a beautifully illustrated alphabet book, but really for older children. Cranberry Thanksgiving is another classic.
I used "Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving" with a class of third graders for the second time yesterday. Haven't read "Sarah Gives Thanks" but I like the lighthearted way history is treated.
Thanks! So lovely to not have to sift through lousy Thanksgiving books myself and just go for these winners! 🙂 ps- the deleted comment was by me, accidentally posted as my husband.
We've enjoyed An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott but now I can't find the edition we read that had gorgeous illustrations too. Happy hunting.
I actually checked that one out! It's too long for Ella right now, but I'm excited to pull it out again in a couple of years.
sarah s. says
I love hearing your recommendations! I need something to keep track of them though 🙂
Megan G says
We love "Turkey Trouble" by Wendi Silvano. My kids get such a kick out of the illustrations.
Kimberly F. says
The former children's librarian at my library used this book and the preschool crowd loved it. The cover illustration alone is hilarious.
Our favorite Thanksgiving book is "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie" by Alison Jackson and Judy Schachner. My kids love it!
The Thanksgiving books are the saddest display of holiday books at our library every year. Last week we tried Rivka's First Thanksgiving by Elsa Okon Rael and really enjoyed it. It's better suited for grade school kids, and my 4th grader liked it best of my three children.
Heidi Grimshaw says
I can’t wait to check these out! Our favorite Thanksgiving book is “A Turkey for Thanksgiving” by Eve Bunting. It’s a great one.
Heidi Grimshaw says
These look great! We love “A Turkey for Thanksgiving” by Eve Bunting.
Avery Milne says
My kids love cranberry thanksgiving. It’s probably in the top 10 most read all year long. I keep it out bc they love it that much. It’s sometimes funny to me what makes that list, but for some reason that one does!
Honour Del Crognale says
The Great Thanksgiving Escape is a winner in our library! Also Thanksgiving Rules and Bear Says Thanks.
My 2 favorite books to read at story time this time of year are Turkey Trouble and The Great Thanksgiving Escape! Enjoy!
One of my favorites is “Thankful” by Eileen Spinelli. Not specifically Thanksgiving, but a way to look at gratitude in everyday, small ways. And her pictures are so sweet.
Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller will always be my #1 Thanksgiving picture book. It’s heartwarming, which is just what a book about Thanksgiving ought to be.
I second that one!
Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano for the win!
Elaine Doolittle says
One of our friends has just written a new book, encouraging family philanthropy, called Thanks-for-Giving Day.
Sometimes It’s Turkey, Sometimes It’s Feathers by Lorna Balian — it’s an old one, but my all-time favorite!!
I’ll have to check out some of these we haven’t read yet! I just spotted a brand new Over the River… edition illustrated by Emma Randall that looks great…I’ve been meaning to pick a favorite to add to our collection and that one may be it 🙂
Rebecca Lately says
Thanks for the recommendations! I got all four of our Thanksgiving books out and now I have more to add to our collection.
Talia's Travel Blog says
These look great. We love Balloons Over Broadway. Have you read The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell? My daughters (now 2 and 5) really love this one. It might be quirky for some, but there’s something about the illustrations and the sweet story – seems to really captivate them!
Aww what about Thanksgiving in the Woods?!
I completely agree about the lack of Thanksgiving picture books but my most favorite is “A Turkey for Thanksgiving” by Eve Bunting. The illustrations are wonderful and the story is cute- it never feels like Thanksgiving to me until I’ve read it!
Mousekins Thanksgiving (and all mousekin books for that matter!), Sometimes it’s Turkey, Sometimes it’s Feathers, Cranberry Thanksgiving, A Turkey for Thanksgiving. I know there are more, I just can’t think of titles!
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson!
The only one I really love is Over the River…
I did find another version of that last year that was fun, a more modern one, by Linda Ashman. I also like Sharing the Bread: an old fashioned thanksgiving story
There are a few good books about gratitude that could be nice additions to a Thanksgiving collection. Look and Be Grateful by Tomie DePaola, Thankful by Eileen Spinelli, and the Thankful Book by Todd Parr. I also like Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkins, which isn’t thanksgiving related, but would be a nice Thanksgiving-y/apples/farmers/adventure read. It’s such a fun read aloud.
More and more I’m wanting Thanksgiving to be an important holiday for my family—and not just the starting gate to Christmas. I love the idea of encouraging thankfulness—and a holiday that is about being together (without fireworks or piles of presents or candy or costumes or egg hunts or any of that).
Steph Western says
One that I discovered during a library story time and liked is called “Thank you, Thanksgiving.” It’s a simple picture book but really sweet for younger kids. It’s about a little girl who walks to the store on Thanksgiving Day to get a last-minute ingredient for dinner and thanks all the things she sees.
I also second the votes for Eileen Spinelli’s Thankful! We bought that one a couple of years ago to bring out in November, and every year we all say what we are thankful for and write it inside the book.
I LOVE Balloons Over Broadway! We read it every year around Thanksgiving, I should probably just buy a copy!
We like Otis Gives Thanks by Loren Long. Not sure it’s technically a Thanksgiving book, but it’s about being thankful so it works for us!
Courtney Hague says
I love “Before We Eat” by Pat Brisson as a Thanksgiving Book. It’s not technically about Thanksgiving but it has you follow some food from farm to table in a very simple way and give thanks all along the way (even to the truck drivers who bring the food to the supermarket)
Lara Weaver says
How Many Days to America: A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting is really good. Especially in light of the current immigration crisis.
Melanie Fisher says
I just recently discovered that Over the River is Thanksgiving and not Christmas! My 2-year-old loves Sharing the Bread …probably because we sing it instead of just reading…it’s one of those rhyming ones that just begs to be sung. We use a variation of the tune of Polly Put the Kettle On.
We like The Ugly Pumpkin – a pumpkin based book that is actually really about Thanksgiving. Great list! And have loved reading the comments.
Alicia Walters says
One I didn’t see mentioned in the comments and is super cute is This First Thanksgiving Day A Counting Story by Laura Krauss Melmed, Illustrated by Mark Buehner. It’s illustrations are beautiful and it has the cutest children and hidden rabbits to find on each page, super fun!
I really like Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Miller. The illustrations are so charming and cozy. It’s a simple story of a family preparing for Thanksgiving and is about food, family and togetherness.
C Szrama says
I would make sure to add some titles actually about THANKSGIVING, the original feast day. There are many wonderful options, for all reading levels. the first Thanksgiving was a group of Christians (who came here seeking religious freedom and in the process also helped establish democracy in the new world, which somewhat directly led to the worldshaking Declaration in 1776– which led to the freedom we know & love in the West today… so yeah… worth remembering), who had survived horrors and terrors, thanking a real & personal God for His care. They were thankful for their Native allies as well as particular Native American friends such as Tisquantum, usually called “Squanto,” and so invited them to feast as well. They had a peace treaty with these “Indians” which was unbroken as long as any of the signers of either side were alive. Also worth remembering. Squanto’s testimony was one of miraculous providence. Again, worth remembering. Thanksgiving, like it or not, was from the beginning about thanking GOD for His provision, not just having a general “thankful” feeling. So yeah… let’s teach our kids honestly and include books about the holiday’s origins. “Squanto & the Miracle of Thanksgiving” by Eric Metaxas is my favorite books along these lines but there are SO MANY other good ones. “Thanksgiving Mice” is a good one for littles. And of course there are many that also talk about the holiday as it was celebrated around the US over the next 400 years, including Louisa May Alcott’s “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” or “A Pioneer Thanksgiving.”
Susan Johnson says
My grandgirls and I loved Balloons on Broadway. When I taught 1st and 2nd grade, I read 2 of my favorites to the kids. Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin is a fun story with a mystery about who is after Grandma’s cranberry bread recipe. The recipe is at the end and, of course, I made it and served it to the kids. The other one is Eve Bunting’s A Turkey for Thanksgiving as others have mentioned,. After the reading I had the kids write a letter to Mrs. Moose from Turkey starting with “Here are the reasons you should NOT eat!” I saved this list of reasons from a little girl in my 2011 class. “You should not eat me because: I am cute 2. I like mooses. 3. I am clean. 4. I taste bad. 5. I am really a duck! Gobblingly yours, Turkey
I reread them both now to the grandgirls. Happy Thanksgiving!.
Julie Allen says
Thanks for updating this and sharing what you’re learning. I’m on a similar journey and so want to do right by our brothers and sisters who have been marginalized. I really admire and respect your willingness to do this on your professional platform. 🖤
Tina Ristau says
My Thanksgiving favorites are Turk and Runt and Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday.
Katelyn Hall says
I’d love to know which books got taken off your list!
Allison M. says
Thank you so much for updating your list and removing problematic titles. I work at a public library and recognize the importance of this.
Thanksgiving at the Tappleton’s is our favorite! I read it as a child too.
Sara Millett says
At Thanksgiving I like to add books about other courageous people who came to America in the years after the Pilgrims. They show how the beautiful diversity in our country came to be. When Jesse Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest and P.J. Lynch is a beautiful book and I love Grandfather’s Journey by Alan Say too (it won the Caldecott Medal in 1994).
Thanksgiving at the Tappleton’s is one of our favorites, too. And The Night before Thanksgiving is such a cute and fun story, too.
Alicia Henderson says
I really love The Thanksgiving Door, by Debby Atwell.
A Turkey for Thanksgiving
Turk & Runt: A Thanksgiving Comedy
‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving
How Many Days to America?
The Great Thanksgiving Escape
Elena Wiggins says
What a great list of books! We enjoyed In November. BalLoons Over Broadway looks so fun! I am linking my toddler’s favorite thanksgiving books, if interested!