Like many families, every year at the Thanksgiving meal we are supposed to list the things we are thankful for. I hate this tradition. If you don’t say “family” and “health” you sound like a tool. But hearing everyone at the table list off “family” and “health” is super boring and seems kind of fake to me. Also, we list the things we are thankful for, but often forget to actually give thanks for them. Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning
Message by Chief Jake Swamp and illustrated by Erwin Printup (Lee&Low Books, $8.95) is an excellent alternative and I would like to suggest that reading it around the table become our family’s new tradition. The text is based on the Thanksgiving Message, which is a message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and her inhabitants. According to the introduction, the words are traditionally spoken at ceremonial gatherings of the Iroquois or Six Nations — Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onodaga, Senecca, and Tuscarora. The invocation begins, “To be a human being is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life” and unifies both recognition and appreciation. The illustrations beautifully capture the majesty of the text and convey the joy of the physical and spiritual world.
For younger children, Tomie dePaola’s My First Thanksgiving (Grosset & Dunlap, $5.99) introduces the Thanksgiving story and ends with a
contemporary image of the family gathering. The book is simple; it presents the core concepts without imparting the oppressive instructional quality that is (far too often) a staple in any holiday book. dePaolo’s illustrations, as always, are a perfect complement.
Finally, for slightly older children, there are two excellent non-fiction books about pilgrim children that balance information and entertainment. Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl and Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy, both by Kate Waters (Scholastic, $6.99), contain photographs by Russ Kendall of children in the Plimouth Plantation village. Volunteers recreate 1620, and sometimes children volunteer with their parents (but not always and once I did kind of piss off a pilgrim by asking where the children were). The village is carefully researched and the inhabitants meticulously maintain their character. Besides visiting the Plantation itself, these two books are the next best thing for learning about daily Pilgrim life.