As Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t help but be thankful for the gift of books. The way they fill up my home and my heart. The way they teach, inspire, challenge, and spark my imagination.
If you are looking for the best children’s books about Thanksgiving, you’ve come to the right place. The following books teach gratitude and history with lovely illustrations and accompanying text.
written by Ann McGovern; illustrated by Elroy Freem
This educational and historical picture book follows the seasons of the first year for the pilgrims – beginning with the journey on the Mayflower and ending with the Thanksgiving feast. The author puts a special emphasis on what life might have been like for children in those days. If you only buy one picture book about Thanksgiving, this would be a good pick for its historical accuracy and strong overview of the key facts.
written by Mike Allegra; illustrated by David Gardner
Meet Sarah Josepha Hale – widow, mother of five, writer, and entrepreneur. A woman beyond her time, she loved to read and yearned to go to college. With a hefty amount of self-education from books and conversation, she eventually became the Editor of Lady’s Book Magazine and one of the strongest influencers of women in her time. Over the course of her life, she sent letters to five different presidents to make her case that Thanksgiving should be a national holiday. Finally, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday. A beautiful story about the power of persistence.
written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
written by Barbara Cohen; illustrated by Daniel Mark Duffy
Third grader Molly is a Russian immigrant to the United States. As a newcomer and the only Jewish student in her class, Molly is teased and feels painfully alone. In November, her class learns about pilgrims and Molly brings in a figurine that looks like her mama. The kids laugh, but the teacher scolds them…explaining what it really means to be a pilgrim. This is an important story with many thematic elements that will open the door for discussions about bullying, loneliness, being different, and the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
written by Elsa Okon Rael; illustrated by Maryann Kovalski
Based on a true story from the author’s childhood, Rivka’s First Thanksgiving is a tale about the wisdom of children. Rivka is a young Jewish girl who learns about Thanksgiving in school and is passionate about its importance. With gumption and spirit, she manages to convince the Rabbi and other Jewish leaders that the holiday is one that “all Americans can share.”
written by Diane Z. Shore; illustrated by Megan Lloyd
The author recounts the hardships and joys of the year leading up to the feast with rhyming text and vivid illustrations. Each chunk of text ends with a line of gratitude, “Thanks be to God for…” We appreciate that the book includes a short historical note on the first page with the key facts and dates surrounding the holiday. This is also a good book for expanding vocabulary, with less familiar words such as “skim,” “battering,” “soothing,” “despair,” “shallop,” and “bountiful.”
written by Rhonda Gowler Greene; illustrated by Susan Gaber
In the same style as “This Is The House That Jack Built,” this rhythmic book starts with the celebration and works backward to show how the pilgrims got to that point. Lovely illustrations and minimal text provide context, but very little information. Best for the very young.
written by Julie Markes; illustrated by Doris Barrette
written by Alice Dalgliesh; illustrated by Helen Sewell
Slightly older children will enjoy this more detailed chapter-book style Caldecott Honor Book. The story follows one family as they travel on the Mayflower and make their way in a new land. The final chapter culminates with the feast of Thanksgiving.
written by Eve Bunting; illustrated by Beth Peck
In this suspenseful picture book, author Eve Bunting shares the story of a refugee family, escaping from a Caribbean Island to avoid the persecution of their government. They face unexpected hardships as their boat breaks down and they are stranded without food and water. The hopeful ending lends itself to beautiful discussions about contentment.
written by Lydia Maria Child; illustrated by Christopher Mason
What are your favorite picture books about Thanksgiving? We’ll update our list as other treasures are discovered, always keeping our list to the very BEST children’s books.