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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
Thankful 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 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 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.