Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of the year. Yes, I am a true foodie at heart, but that’s not the only reason why I love Thanksgiving. (Really, it’s not!) To me, everything about the day provides a sense of comfort and gratitude. Stuffing your face and eating until you’re comatose…well, that’s just an added bonus.
I’m looking forward to enjoying family, good food, and of course reading some great books with the kids before the holiday arrives. There are so many Thanksgiving-themed books available you may end up having a hard time deciding which ones to read. To make it a little easier I’ve rounded up a collection of board and picture books that will teach kids the importance of gratitude, thankfulness, and kindness mixed in with a little fun and food…yum! I’ve also added some culturally responsive/sensitive books to help teach children about the real story of Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective.
Thank You God: From Kids Around the World by Allia Zobel Nolan
As little readers turn the pages, they’ll travel to different countries and get a chance to discover what their friends in Egypt, Russia, Africa, China and other lands are grateful for–things like koala bears, northern lights, windmills, and more. And while they’re thrilling to exotic, new flora and fauna, they’ll get a lift-the-flap surprise on every spread. A great way to celebrate different cultures during Diversity Month (October), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all year around.
My Thanksgiving Prayer by Crystal Bowman
This board book features a child thanking and praising God for the big and small joys of life. Children will delight in the colorful illustrations and the catchy rhyming text.
Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon
Toddlers will love the silly Thanksgiving turkeys in this fun counting book full of silly turkeys doing very silly things! From twirling on a dance floor to being chased by a bee to tanning in the sun, these are no ordinary Thanksgiving turkeys. This shiny fabric–tabbed book is a holiday treat that is sure to be gobbled up quickly.
Five Little Thank Yous by Cindy Jin
This Thanksgiving book of five important thank yous is the perfect way for parents to celebrate and share the meaning of the holiday with their child.
Picture Books (Includes Culturally Responsive Native American Books)
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell
The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.
The Very First Native Americans by Cara Ashrose
Long before Columbus landed in America, hundreds of groups of people had already made their homes here. You may have heard of some of them—like the Sioux, Hopi, and Seminole. But where did they live? What did they eat? How did they have fun? And where are they today? From coast to coast, learn all about these very first Americans!
The People Shall Continue by Simon J. Ortiz
A classic for 40 years, The People Shall continue is an absolute must for reading about the history of Indigenous people in America. This is such a beautiful, profound and important book. Every library should have a copy of it.
Told in the rhythms of traditional oral narrative, this powerful telling of the history of the Native/Indigenous peoples of North America recounts their story from Creation to the invasion and usurpation of Native lands. As more and more people arrived, The People saw that the new men did not respect the land. The People witnessed the destruction of their Nations and the enslavement of their people. The People fought hard, but eventually agreed to stop fighting and signed treaties.
Encounter by Jane Yolen
When Christopher Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador in 1492, what he discovered were the Taino Indians. Told from a young Taino boy’s point of view, this is a story of how the boy tried to warn his people against welcoming the strangers, who seemed more interested in golden ornaments than friendship. Years later the boy, now an old man, looks back at the destruction of his people and their culture by the colonizers.
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace
Countering the prevailing, traditional story of the first Thanksgiving, with its black-hatted, silver-buckled Pilgrims; blanket-clad, be-feathered Indians; cranberry sauce; pumpkin pie; and turkey, this lushly illustrated photo-essay presents a more measured, balanced, and historically accurate version of the three-day harvest celebration in 1621.
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp
Giving Thanks is a special children’s version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada and that is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations.
The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering by Gordon Regguinti
Glen Jackson, Jr., an eleven-year-old Ojibway Indian in northern Minnesota, goes with his father to harvest wild rice, the sacred food of his people.
The Circle of Thanks by Bruchac
Fourteen poems with themes of thanksgiving and appreciation of nature, based in part on traditional Native American songs and prayers.
Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas
This entertaining and historical story shows that the actual hero of Thanksgiving was neither white nor Indian but God. In 1608, English traders came to Massachusetts and captured a twelve-year-old Indian, Squanto, and sold him into slavery. He was raised by Christians and taught faith in God. Ten years later he was sent home to America. Upon arrival, he learned an epidemic had wiped out his entire village. But God had plans for Squanto. God delivered a Thanksgiving miracle: an English-speaking Indian living in the exact place where the Pilgrims landed in a strange new world.
The Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac
In 1838, settlers moving west forced the great Cherokee Nation, and their chief John Ross, to leave their home land and travel 1,200 miles to Oklahoma. An epic story of friendship, war, hope, and betrayal.
Squanto Y El Primer Dia De Accion De Gracias/Squanto and the First Thanksgiving by Joyce K. Kessel
An introduction to the life of the Massachusetts Indian Squanto, best known for befriending the Pilgrims of the New Plymouth Colony.
Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith
This collection of interrelated stories is heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny. Author Cynthia Leitich Smith writes with wit and candor about what it’s like to grow up as a Seminole-Cherokee boy who is just as happy pounding the pavement in windy Chicago as rowing on a take in rural Oklahoma.
Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition by Sally M. Hunter
Twelve-year-old Russell learns how to grow and dry corn from his Winnebago grandfather.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson
Born of Mohawk and Cayuga descent, musical icon Robbie Robertson learned the story of Hiawatha and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, as part of the Iroquois oral tradition. Now he shares the same gift of storytelling with a new generation.
Hiawatha was a strong and articulate Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. This message not only succeeded in uniting the tribes but also forever changed how the Iroquois governed themselves—a blueprint for democracy that would later inspire the authors of the U.S. Constitution.
Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Kay Minnema
Johnny can hardly contain his excitement. In no time, he’ll be digging in with everyone else, filling his belly with all this good food.
But wait. First there is the long drive to the community center. And then an even longer Ojibwe prayer. And then—well, young boys know to follow the rules: elders eat first, no matter how hungry the youngsters are. Johnny lingers with Grandma, worried that the tasty treats won’t last. Seats at the tables fill and refill; platters are emptied and then replaced. Will it ever be their turn? And will there be enough?
A great introduction for children to learn about the Ojibwe culture.
Many Hands: A Penobscot Indian Story by Angeli Perrow
Why does everyone keep telling Lily that many hands make the basket? Didn’t she make the basket with her very own hands? It is the most beautiful basket of her 10-year-old life and no one will give her the credit she deserves. In the end, she learns a valuable lesson about pride and the spirit of community. Into the story is woven the process of basket making and a Wabanaki animal legend, as well as some words of the Penobscot language.
Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
Omu means queen in Igbo (spoken in Nigeria). It’s the name the author used used for her grandmother while growing up. Omu generously gives her delicious stew away to everyone in the neighborhood until there’s none left for her to eat. What will Omu do?
This book truly warmed my heart! It’s a beautiful and well-written story of family, love, sharing, community and good food. Perfect for sharing around the holidays or any time of the year.
Fry Bread by Juana Martinez-Neal
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story is so much more than a story about food. From the illustrations to the end papers to the back matter, this is a simple, yet phenomenal story about food, history, culture, diversity, resourcefulness, perseverance, family and community.
The story is told in simple, lyrical text. Readers learn that fry bread is a food, it’s a shape, it’s sound, it’s history and more. In short, readers learn that fry bread is an important symbol of the Native American culture. At the end of the book, readers are invited into the story with the simple phrases, “Fry bread is you.”, “Fry bread is us.” The back matter has a recipe for fry bread, an author’s note and more detailed information about fry bread.
Pies from Nowhere by Dee Romito
Georgia Gilmore was a cook at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery, Alabama. When the bus boycotts broke out in Montgomery after Rosa Parks was arrested, Georgia knew just what to do. She organized a group of women who cooked and baked to fund-raise for gas and cars to help sustain the boycott. Called the Club from Nowhere, Georgia was the only person who knew who baked and bought the food, and she said the money came from “nowhere” to anyone who asked.
When Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for his role in the boycott, Georgia testified on his behalf, and her home became a meeting place for civil rights leaders. This picture book highlights a hidden figure of the civil rights movement who fueled the bus boycotts and demonstrated that one person can make a real change in her community and beyond. It also includes one of her delicious recipes (homemade pound cake) for kids to try with the help of their parents!
Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules
It’s almost Thanksgiving, and Tuyet is excited about the holiday and the vacation from school. There’s just one problem: her Vietnamese American family is having duck for Thanksgiving dinner – not turkey! Nobody has duck for Thanksgiving – what will her teacher and the other kids think? To her surprise, Tuyet enjoys her yummy thanksgiving dinner anyhow – and an even bigger surprise is waiting for her at school on Monday. Dinners from roast beef to lamb to enchiladas adorned the Thanksgiving tables of her classmates, but they all had something in common – family! Kids from families with different traditions will enjoy this warm story about “the right way” to celebrate an American holiday.
Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure by Linda Ashman
This rhyming book is so fun! It features a multiracial family traveling by sleigh to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the holidays. Each family faces an obstacle that delays their trip, but in the end they finally reach their destination.
The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
From everyday activities like reading and bath time to big family meals together and special alone time between parent and child, Todd inspires readers to be thankful for all of life’s special moments. The perfect book to treasure and share, around the holidays and throughout the year.
Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes
What makes you thankful? A book? Weekends? Your family? How do you say thanks? With a flower? With a chocolate bar? With a surprise?
In sixteen extraordinary poems that range in form from a haiku to a rebus to a riddle, Nikki Grimes reminds us how wonderful it is to feel thankful, and how powerful a simple “thank you” can be.
Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table by Vanessa Newton
Auntie Mabel and her family and friends have gathered for their big Sunday dinner and can’t wait to dig into a delicious, mouthwatering meal. Before they can begin, Auntie Mabel starts—and doesn’t stop!—blessing everyone and everything she surveys: the yams and Brussels sprouts, the table and chairs—even the president of the United States!
Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo
Jinyi and her sister love visiting Auntie and Uncle Yang’s home, where they enjoy dumpling-eating contests and backyard adventures with their cousins. One weekend, on a Sunday drive among the cornfields near Chicago, Auntie Yang spots something she has never before seen in Illinois. Could it be one of their favorite Chinese foods—soybeans?!
This book has many parallels to typical Thanksgiving traditions, including a family road trip, hoards of aunts, uncles and cousins, and a big family meal.
Milly and the Macy’s Parade by Shana Corey
In the spirit of “Miracle on 34th Street” comes a heartwarming holiday story based on the true origins of the Macy’s Parade,endorsed by Macy’s. The Macy’s Parade is a treasured American pastime. But few people know that the first parade in 1924 was organized by immigrant employees at Macy’s eager to incorporate their old-world traditions into their new American heritage. With facility & flair, Shana Corey tells the fictional story of a Polish immigrant girl who helps envision this grand event.
Rice & Rocks by Sandra L. Richards
Tradition takes flight in Rice & Rocks, a picture book celebrating food, culture and diversity.
Giovanni’s friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, and his grandmother is serving rice and beans. Giovanni is embarrassed he does not like ‘rice and rocks’ and worries his friends will think the traditional Jamaican dish is weird. But his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue. She and Giovanni’s pet parrot, Jasper, take him on a magical journey across the globe, visiting places where people eat rice and rocks. This exciting story celebrates the varied traditions of every culture while also highlighting the delicious similarities that bring us all together.
Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore
Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brother head out, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama’s assistant chef. And of all the delicious Filipino dishes that dance through Cora’s head, she and Mama decide to make pancit, her favorite noodle dish.With Mama’s help, Cora does the grown-up jobs like shredding the chicken and soaking the noodles (perhaps Mama won’t notice if she takes a nibble of chicken or sloshes a little water on the floor). Cora even gets to stir the noodles in the pot carefully– while Mama supervises. When dinner is finally served, her siblings find out that Cora did all their grown-up tasks, and Cora waits anxiously to see what everyone thinks of her cooking.
Rivka’s First Thanksgiving by Elsa Okon Rael
More than anything, Rivka wants to celebrate Thanksgiving. She has learned all about the holiday in school and knows her family has a lot to be thankful for in America. But Rivka’s parents are Jewish immigrants from Poland, and they wonder what Pilgrims and Indians have to do with them. Is Thanksgiving really a holiday for Jews?
Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller
Celebrate food and family with this heartwarming Thanksgiving picture book. We will share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread. / Grateful to be warm and fed. / We will share the bread. In this spirited ode to the holiday, set at the turn of the twentieth century, a large family works together to make their special meal. Mama prepares the turkey, Daddy tends the fire, Sister kneads, and Brother bastes. Everyone—from Grandma and Grandpa to the littlest baby—has a special job to do. Told in spare, rhythmic verse and lively illustrations, Sharing the Bread is a perfect read-aloud to celebrate the Thanksgiving tradition.
The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing
It’s another Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. Gavin expects a long day of boredom and being pestered by distantly related toddlers, but his cousin Rhonda has a different idea: make a break for it – out of the kids’ room to the swing set in the backyard! Gavin isn’t so sure, especially when they encounter vicious guard dogs (in homemade sweaters), a hallway full of overly affectionate aunts, and worse yet, the great wall of butts! Will they manage to avoid the obstacles and find some fun before turkey time? Or will they be captured before they’ve had a taste of freedom?
The Memory Cupboard by Charlotte Herman
For Katie, nothing compares to Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. There are the aunts and uncles, whom Katie loves to see each year. But a cherished object is broken at dinner, and Katie blames herself for spoiling the day.
Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley
In this warm holiday story, a young Puerto Rican boy saves the life of his pet turkey with help from his close-knit New York City family and neighborhood. Beginning Spanish vocabulary is woven into the text.
Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
A counting book that features an African-American family shopping for food, preparing dinner, and sitting down to eat. Lively read-aloud text paired with bright collage illustrations.
The Little Kids’ Table by Mary Ann McCabe
Everyone knows that the little kids table is the place to be for any holiday or family gathering. They just know how to have fun! This silly, rhyming story follows a group of rambunctious cousins from table setting to dessert.
Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora
In a series of poetic sentences, a young boy (biracial Mexican/Caucasian) tells about some of the everyday things for which he is thankful. Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, ¡Gracias! Thanks!
The Firefighters’ Thanksgiving by Maribeth Boelts
Station 1 is always a busy place. When there aren’t fires to put out there are plenty of chores to do. And on Thanksgiving Day there’s a big feast to prepare. Lou is in charge of dinner this year, but just as they finish shopping, a call comes in. They drop everything to get to the fire. Other calls interrupt Lou’s cooking throughout the day, and it looks like there may not be a Thanksgiving dinner for these firefighters.
How Many Days to America: A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting
After the police come, a family is forced to flee their Caribbean island and set sail for America in a small fishing boat.
Sweet Potato Pie by Kathleen D. Lindsey
During a drought in the early 1900s, a large loving African American family finds a delicious way to earn the money they need to save their family farm.
Stone Soup by Jon J Muth
Set in China in Muth’s hauntingly beautiful watercolors. Three strangers, hungry and tired, pass through a war-torn village. Embittered and suspicious from the war, the people hide their food and close their windows tight. That is, until the clever strangers suggest making a soup from stones. Intrigued by the idea, everyone brings what they have until– together, they have made a feast fit for a king!
Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland
Thanksgiving is about everything that we are thankful for. Cheerful, colorful illustrations accompany the simple text in this celebration of family, friends, and the holiday that brings them all together.
Your turn: What books will you and your little ones be reading for Thanksgiving? Feel free to share in the comments.