Thanksgiving Early Readers

10 Nov

Thanksgiving Early Readers

I love Thanksgiving! I mean, what’s not to love? Here are eight of my favorite Thanksgiving-themed early readers. I’ve included suggested grade levels for each book, but feel free to use your judgement. These books also make excellent read-alouds for the whole family!

Silly Tilly’s Thanksgiving DinnerSilly Tilly’s Thanksgiving Dinner

Tilly is hosting Thanksgiving for all her friends, but when the absentminded mole forgets to cook dinner, her helpful friends give her something to be thankful for! Silly Tilly will have kids laughing out loud. Preschool to Grade 1.

Happy ThanksgivingHappy Thanksgiving (Robin Hill School)

The first graders in Mrs. Connor’s class are getting ready for Thanksgiving by making costumes. When the fire alarm goes off, the little pilgrims, Indians, and turkeys get to share their holiday spirit with the rest of the school! Preschool to Grade 1.

The Night Before ThanksgivingThe Night Before Thanksgiving

Kids will delight in this energetic story of Thanksgiving preparations. Relatives gather, the kids watch the parade and set the table, and mom prepares a Thanksgiving feast! This festive book is one of my favorites. Kindergarten to Grade 2.

Amelia Bedelia Talks TurkeyAmelia Bedelia Talks Turkey

When everyone’s favorite literal-minded housekeeper is put in charge of a third grade Thanksgiving pageant, disaster (and hilarity) are bound to ensue! Grade 1 to Grade 3.

Annie and Snowball and the Thankful FriendsAnnie and Snowball and the Thankful Friends

Annie wants to have a BIG Thanksgiving dinner, but her family is small. So she decides to invite a few of her friends and neighbors who can’t be with their families for the holiday. This sweet story perfectly captures the joy of Thanksgiving. Kindergarten to Grade 2.

Just a Special ThanksgivingJust a Special Thanksgiving

Lovable Little Critter is back in a brand-new story! Little Critter causes plenty of mischief during a school play and a Thanksgiving parade. Then he and his family participate in a giant Thanksgiving dinner for the less fortunate members of Critterville. Preschool to Grade 2.

It’s Thanksgiving!It’s Thanksgiving!

This collection of 12 kid-friendly poems details all of the delightful aspects of Thanksgiving. The lively rhymes flow beautifully and the illustrations are charming. Grade 1 – Grade 3.

Thanksgiving is for Giving ThanksThanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks

This sweet story highlights all of the many things and people that we have to be thankful for. A cheerful reminder that there is more to Thanksgiving than turkey and pilgrims! Preschool to Grade 2.

A Fine Dessert

5 Nov

A Fine Dessert

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat (©2015) is a picture book written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

This charming book follows four different families, each a century apart, as they prepare blackberry fool, a simple dessert made from crushed blackberries, sugar, and whipped cream. The story focuses closely on how each family prepares the treat, from gathering ingredients all the way to presenting the finished dessert.

A Fine Dessert (2)In England in the year 1710, a girl and her mother pick wild blackberries and milk a cow for fresh cream. They serve the finished dessert to the girl’s father and brothers. In 1810 South Carolina, a slave girl and her mother pick blackberries from the plantation garden. After supper they serve the dessert to their master and his family. In 1910 Boston, a girl and her mother buy blackberries at a farmer’s market. When they finish they sit down and enjoy the dessert with the rest of the family. In 2010 San Diego, a boy and his father buy blackberries and cream from a supermarket. They eat the dessert in the company of a large gathering of friends.

A Fine Dessert (4)

Each vignette follows a pattern, allowing children to easily spot the many similarities and differences between time periods. One of the cleverer ways this is achieved is by highlighting the tool used to beat the whipped cream. A bundle of twigs, a metal whisk, cast-iron rotary beaters, and finally, an electric mixer.

I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book. The author and illustrator give great attention to historical accuracy. A Fine Dessert proves that history lessons don’t have to come from textbooks. The gorgeous ink and watercolor illustrations are full of soft colors and intricate details. The author doesn’t shy away from difficult issues, but doesn’t dwell on them either, and the overall tone of the book is a positive one. The author and illustrator’s notes at the end of the book are fascinating, and give plenty of insight into how this book came to be.

A Fine Dessert (5)

The also book includes a recipe for blackberry fool so that families can create their own version of this fine dessert. I recommend A Fine Dessert for ages 5 and up.

Picture Books about Thanksgiving

2 Nov

Picture Books about Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, so creating this book list was so much fun! These picture books are full of everything there is to love about this season: family, tradition, and gratitude. For this list I’ve decided to forgo the traditional “first Thanksgiving” stories, so you won’t find any pilgrims here. What you’ll find instead are engaging, relatable stories that are a joy to read aloud!

The Great Thanksgiving EscapeThe Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

It’s Thanksgiving at Grandma’s and Gavin is stuck in the kids’ room, surrounded by drooling toddlers. His cousin Rhonda hatches a plan to escape the kiddie nightmare and find refuge on the swing set outside. Along the way Gavin and Rhonda must pass through a series of “dangerous” obstacles including vicious “guard dogs”, a room full of teenage “zombies”, and a hall of overly-affectionate aunts. The boisterous cast of characters brings a lot of energy to this story, and the vibrant “kids-eye view” illustrations make this a Thanksgiving treat that shouldn’t be missed.

Time for CranberriesTime for Cranberries by Lisl H. Detlefsen

Young Sam excitedly joins his parents to help harvest the family’s cranberry marsh. This book is both entertaining and informative, and gives readers a fascinating glimpse of family farming life. The book includes an author’s note, glossary, and two cranberry recipes for your Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving WishA Thanksgiving Wish by Michael J. Rosen

For the first Thanksgiving without their beloved Bubbe, Amanda’s parents decide to invite all of the aunts, uncles, and cousins to their new home for the holiday, where everyone attempts to recreate Bubbe’s Thanksgiving recipes. The family is hard at work when a blown fuse brings the preparation to a sudden halt. Just when their hopes of a Thanksgiving feast seem lost, a couple of generous neighbors come to rescue. This poignant story is accentuated by beautiful painted illustrations.

Sarah Gives ThanksSarah Gives Thanks by Mike Allegra

This captivating picture book recounts the life of Sarah Josepha Hale, a widowed mother of five who fought a decades-long battle to see Thanksgiving recognized as a national holiday. Sarah was a groundbreaking writer and magazine editor, in a time when most women were not even allowed to attend college. This inspiring story is a must-read!

Sharing the BreadSharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story
by Pat Zietlow Miller

A 19th century family gathers to prepare a stupendous Thanksgiving feast, and everyone is responsible for a different aspect of the meal. The story is told in catchy rhyming verse and the painted illustrations are rich with texture and detail. This inviting book is sure to become an instant classic.

Over the River and Through the WoodOver the River and Through the Wood
written by L. Maria Child and illustrated by Matt Tavares

A family boards a horse-drawn sleigh and makes the snowy journey to spend Thanksgiving with their extended family. This classic poem – originally published in 1844 – has delighted children and adults for generations, and this newly-illustrated version perfectly captures the era in which the story was written.

ThankfulThankful by Eileen Spinelli

“The waitress is thankful for comfortable shoes. The local reporter, for interesting news.” This endearing poem celebrates the everyday blessings that we sometimes take for granted. The rhyming text and simple watercolor illustrations will appeal to a wide audience. This book is a simple reminder that everyone has something to be thankful for. It’s a perfect read-aloud not only for Thanksgiving, but the rest of the year as well.

In NovemberIn November by Cynthia Rylant

In November, the air grows cold, animals prepare for winter, and families gather to share food and give thanks for their many blessings. Rich, painterly illustrations and lyrical language capture all of the beauty of this special time of year.

The Ugly PumpkinThe Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz

The ugly pumpkin spends all of October in the pumpkin patch, waiting for someone to take him home. But as Thanksgiving approaches, the ugly pumpkin discovers his true calling. He’s not a pumpkin at all – he’s a squash! This fun twist on The Ugly Duckling is hilarious and inventive.

Picture Books about Mermaids

19 Oct

Mermaid Books

Know a kid who’s crazy about mermaids? Then this is the list for you! Today I’m sharing five fantastic mermaid-themed children’s books that the whole family will love.

The Mermaid and the ShoeThe Mermaid and the Shoe by K.G. Campbell

Every one of King Neptune’s daughters has a special talent, except for young Minnow. Minnow’s only talent is asking questions, much to the chagrin of her sisters. When she finds a strange object, Minnow travels all the way to the surface to satisfy her curiosity. Her quest for answers leads Minnow to a series of remarkable discoveries about the world and about herself. This is such an inspiring story and the soft pencil-and-watercolor illustrations are absolutely enchanting.

The Melancholic MermaidThe Melancholic Mermaid by Kallie George and Abigail Halpin

Maude the mermaid was born with two tails, a trait that she embraces until the other children begin teasing her. One day Maude is captured by a fisherman and sold to a circus. The circus is miserable until Maude meets a boy named Tony. Tony has webbed hands and, like Maude, grew up as an outcast. Together Maude and Tony attempt to escape the cruel ring mistress and make their way home.

Mermaid SisterMermaid Sister by Mary Ann Fraser

Shelly is fed up with her annoying little brother and decides she would much rather have a sister instead. She writes a message in bottle advertising for a sister and is thrilled when it is answered by a mermaid named Coral. Shelly and Coral become fast friends, but Shelly quickly learns that having a sister has its ups and downs and that living with a mermaid is not all it’s cracked up to be! Warm, summer-hued paintings compliment the amusing story.

Mermaid DanceMermaid Dance by Marjorie Rose Hakala and Mark Jones

As the sun sets on the ocean, mermaids come to the surface to celebrate the summer solstice. The mermaids bring seashells and strings of beads to decorate the shore, then they prepare a feast and dance to ring in the new season. The lush pastel paintings are a delight.

Mermaid CookbookMermaid Cookbook by Barbara Beery

This whimsical cookbook features more than 30 mermaid-themed recipes that kids will love to make! From crunchy snacks and savory bites to fun drinks and pretty desserts, this book has it all! Most of the recipes are from-scratch, but some utilize store-bought components like boxed cake mix and refrigerated pie dough. The recipes in this book are perfect for a mermaid or ocean themed party, but most are easy enough to enjoy any day of the week! Mermaid Cookbook is intended for kids ages 6 and up with parental supervision.

Spooky Middle Grade Reads

12 Oct

With Halloween only a few weeks away, now is the perfect time to curl up with a scary story on a dark, stormy night. I’ve put together a list of my favorite spooky middle-grade novels, perfect for older children and teens!

Spooky Middle Grade Reads

From ghosts and witches to haunted houses and alternate dimensions, these books have it all. Get ready to be scared!

For younger readers, be sure to check out my Halloween picture books list and Halloween board books list.

The ShadowsThe Shadows (©2010) by Jacqueline West

Olive Dunwoody and her parents move into a decrepit Victorian mansion that still contains all of the previous owner’s possessions. The home is full of creepy paintings that seem to Olive like they’re keeping secrets. When a talking cat gives her a cryptic warning Olive knows there is more to the house than meets the eye, but she has only scratched the surface of what lurks in her new home. This spine-tingling story is packed with frights from start to finish. Ages 9+

Splendors and GloomsSplendors and Glooms (©2012) by Laura Amy Schlitz

Clara Wintermute, the only daughter of a wealthy doctor, goes missing on the night of her twelfth birthday. The prime suspect of Clara’s kidnapping is a mysterious puppeteer known as Grisini. When Grisini’s assistants, an orphan boy and girl, search for clues about Clara’s disappearance, they uncover Grisini’s evil intentions. This moody Dickensian tale has plenty of gore, intrigue, and suspense. Ages 10+.

CoralineCoraline (©2002) by Neil Gaiman

Coraline Jones is exploring her family’s new home when she discovers a mysterious door. Coraline steps through the door and ends up in a parallel version of home where she is greeted by her “Other Mother.” The Other Mother looks just like Coraline’s real mother, but with paper-white skin and black buttons for eyes. Her time spent in the other world is fun at first, but soon Coraline discovers the sinister intentions of this “other” family. This story is creepy, funny, and delightfully macabre. Ages 9+.

The Shrunken HeadCuriosity House: The Shrunken Head (©2015) by Lauren Oliver

A group of orphans with extraordinary abilities live among the other “freaks” at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. When Mr. Dumfrey buys a shrunken head, strange and terrible things begin to happen. This beguiling mystery is not for the faint of heart! Ages 9+.

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book (©2008) by Neil Gaiman

After his parents are murdered, a baby boy is taken in and raised by the ghostly inhabitants of a graveyard. The boy, named Nobody “Bod” Owens by his adoptive parents, grows up isolated from the living world, under the looming threat of the man who murdered his family. This haunting, well-crafted story follows Bod’s adventurous childhood years. Ages 10+.

Halloween Books for Toddlers

5 Oct

Halloween Books for Toddlers

Halloween is right around the corner! With these non-scary Halloween board books, even the youngest members of the family can get excited about Halloween! And don’t forget to check out my favorite Halloween picture books.

Where is Babys PumpkinWhere Is Baby’s Pumpkin? by Karen Katz

Here Comes HalloweenHere Comes Halloween! by Caroline Jayne Church

Spooky PookieSpooky Pookie by Sandra Boynton

I’m the Scariest Thing in the CastleI’m the Scariest Thing in the Castle by Kevin Sherry

Five Little PumpkinsFive Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino

Mouse's First HalloweenMouse’s First Halloween by Lauren Thompson

Room on the BroomRoom on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

0-545-16586-5Halloween Faces by Nancy Davis

Ghosts in the HouseGhosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

My First HalloweenMy First Halloween by Tomie dePaola

Our Favorite Board Books for Baby’s First Year

21 Sep

Board Books for Baby's First YearMy daughter has loved books ever since she was a newborn. But choosing books for babies can be difficult. While there are a lot of wonderful board books out there, it takes a special kind of book to hold the attention of a baby who is less than a year old. Here are my family’s all-time favorites.

Peek-a-WhoPeek-A Who? by Nina Laden

This was my daughter’s absolute favorite book when she was a baby. We read it almost every day, and she would giggle along every single time. The peekaboo windows on each page are a delight for little ones.

Moo Baa LaLaLaMoo, Baa, La La La!by Sandra Boynton

We’ve read this one so many times that we wore out our first copy! My baby laughs at all the funny animal noises, and sings the “la la la” part along with me.

The Very Hungry CaterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

This colorful classic is a staple in our home, and one of the first “story” books that my infant daughter would sit through. An added bonus is that little ones love to stick their fingers through the holes on each page!

Barnyard DanceBarnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton

A fiddle playing cow leads a crew of boisterous barnyard animals in a hilarious hoedown! Everyone in our house (especially my husband!) loves this silly sing-along story.

Time for BedTime for Bed by Mem Fox

Gentle rhyming text pairs beautifully with paintings of baby animals cuddled with mom or dad. This soothing bedtime book has stood the test of time for us. My daughter still asks for it almost every night.

DoggiesDoggies by Sandra Boynton

This counting and barking book is an absolute delight! My daughter loves listening to me make all of the different types of dog sounds. It might be too simple for an older child, but it’s a great pick for infants.

Mommy HugsMommy Hugs by Karen Katz

This sweet story chronicles the day that a mommy and baby share together. The bright colors and familiar scenes will hold a baby’s attention.

Snuggle PuppySnuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton

This singsong book – a love song from parent to child – is perfect for snuggling.

The Tale of a Very Small Meerkat

16 Sep

Legs (©2015) written by Sarah J. Dodd and illustrated by Giusi Capizzi is the story of a meerkat named Miki who lives in a zoo with his mother.

LegsOne day Miki decides to venture out on his own and see the world. When he wanders a little too far, Miki finds himself looking up at a bunch of legs! Frightened, Miki runs off and ends up outside, and is suddenly surrounded by human legs! Miki feels incredibly lost, until he sees a pair of familiar legs belonging to his friend the zookeeper. From his new vantage point in the zookeeper’s arms, Miki sees that all the legs have friendly face to go along with them!

Legs Illustration

What makes this book so special is that Miki’s perspective on the world is so similar to that of a small child. Kids will easily relate to Miki’s feelings of anxiety, and will applaud the story’s happy ending. The vivid, expressive illustrations have tons of appeal, and little ones can have fun guessing which animal each set of legs belongs to. I recommend Legs for ages 2-5.

Picture Books about Pets

14 Sep

Picture Books about PetsPets are a very popular subject in children’s literature, so I’ve curated a list of my 15 favorite pet-themed picture books. This list includes a variety of different pets, from dogs, cats, and goldfish to much more unconventional animal companions. Each of these books exemplifies the joy of having a pet.

Silly Doggy!Silly Doggy!

Lily looks out her window and is delighted to see a lost dog in the garden. He’s very big and a bit grumpy, but Lily loves him anyway. What she doesn’t realize is that her new “doggy” is actually a bear that has escaped from the local zoo!

I'm My Own DogI’m My Own Dog

An independent pooch adopts a human companion in this delightfully witty role-reversal. Kids and parents will be laughing out loud.

Scrawny CatScrawny Cat

A lonely stray cat longs to find somewhere to belong. When he falls asleep on an old dinghy and floats out to sea, the scrawny cat finds an unexpected new home.

What Pet Should I GetWhat Pet Should I Get?

A brother and sister go shopping for a pet, and have a very hard time choosing what to get! This never-before-seen Dr. Seuss book was created from a 50-year-old manuscript that was recently discovered in the late author’s home.


One little boy just wants a dog like everyone else. His mother says he needs to be happy with the pet he has – a goldfish. But can a goldfish be as much fun as a dog? This story is hilarious and includes a positive message.

A Pet for PetuniaA Pet for Petunia

Petunia loves skunks, and is dying to have one for a pet. When her parents tell her that skunks stink, Petunia doesn’t believe them. How could something so cute be stinky? The illustrations – rendered in charcoal with accents of purple watercolor – perfectly compliment this charming story.

Say Hello to Zorro!Say Hello to Zorro!

Mr. Bud has a nice, predictable life, until a new dog joins the family and shakes things up! The illustrations flawlessly capture the big personalities of these adorable dogs.

I Wanna IguanaI Wanna Iguana

Alex wants a pet iguana more than anything, but first he has to convince his mother to let him have one. The entire story is told through a series of notes between Alex and his mother, complemented by hysterical illustrations that depict the potential hijinks that accompany life with an iguana.

Before You Were MineBefore You Were Mine

A boy adopts a dog from a shelter, and wonders about what his life used to be like. This is a moving story that celebrates the joy that comes from adopting a pet.


What’s a girl to do when her mother says she must choose a pet that doesn’t need to be walked, bathed or fed? Why, get a pet sloth, of course! Stunningly beautiful pencil and watercolor illustrations enhance this quirky story.

The Lost and Found PonyThe Lost and Found Pony

A pony is taken from his home when his rider outgrows him. Though he tries to make the best of his new life at the circus, he never forgets his first owner and hopes that someday they’ll meet again. This heartwarming story is sad at times but the ending is incredibly uplifting.

Bad Dog FlashBad Dog Flash

Flash is an energetic puppy who is always getting into trouble. The sparse, rhythmic text is perfect for beginning readers, and the watercolor illustrations are absolutely enchanting.

Not NormanNot Norman: A Goldfish Story

A boy takes his disappointing goldfish to school hoping to trade him for a “good” pet. But after a series of mishaps, the boy realizes that his pet might not be so bad after all.

Granny Gomez and JigsawGranny Gomez & Jigsaw

Granny Gomez’s pet pig Jigsaw is the perfect companion. But soon he grows too big for her house, so Granny builds Jigsaw his very own barn! The story and illustrations are delightful, and Granny Gomez is a compassionate, capable lady who readers will admire.

Wanted the Perfect PetWanted: the Perfect Pet

Henry wants a dog more than anything, so he puts an ad in the newspaper. When a lonely duck sees the ad, he disguises himself as a dog hoping to finally getting a friend. Though Henry quickly learns that his new dog is actually a duck, he realizes that a duck might just be the perfect pet!

My Father’s Dragon

9 Sep

My Fathers DragonMy Father’s Dragon (©1948) by Ruth Stiles Gannett is a classic chapter book that has stood the test of time.

A young boy named Elmer Elevator befriends a talking alley cat who tells him stories of a place called Wild Island. The residents of the island have enslaved a baby dragon, and Elmer decides to go and rescue him. When Elmer comes face-to-face with some of the frightening animals that inhabit Wild Island, he must outwit them using the everyday objects in his knapsack. The unnamed narrator refers to Elmer as “my father” suggesting that this is a true story that happened long ago.

This book is imaginative, clever, and downright hilarious. Elmer is a smart protagonist who keeps his cool under pressure. Short chapters will hold readers’ attention, and black and white illustrations by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (the author’s stepmother) accent critical moments in the story.

For independent reading this book is suitable for children as young as 7 years old. As a read-aloud I recommend it for ages 4+. The whole family will love this wild adventure story!


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