Kids Read: Thanksgiving books for kids that tell more of the story – The Oakland Press

As the Head Librarian in Youth Services, Jordan Wright develops the collection of nonfiction materials for young readers. Beyond his knack for curating a breadth of resources that enlighten about real-world events and iconic figures from our past, Wright also has a deep personal appreciation for history, as well as the ways in which societies around the world have developed through the centuries.
This week, he has selections that tell more of the story about the fateful period in the history of America from the first half of the 17th century, the time of the arrival of the European pilgrims.
“1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving” by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac
Created in partnership with National Geographic and the Plimoth (Plymouth) Plantation Museum, a living history museum in Massachusetts, this is the only nonfiction book I would recommend for children or families looking for facts about the first Thanksgiving.
In the vast majority of books about the first Thanksgiving, the story is almost always told from the European perspective and generally puts a rosy lens on the whole affair.
No, the Pilgrims didn’t have buckles on their hats.
No, the Pilgrims and native Wampanoags weren’t friends — a more accurate description would be political allies.
And no, they didn’t even eat turkey (mmm, eel).
If you’re looking for a balanced, no-baloney, fact-based book about Thanksgiving for kids, this is your best option. For a more in-depth look at the journey of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower, check out “Mayflower 1620.” by the same partnership. For the adults out there, I highly recommend “Mayflower” by Nathaniel Philbrick, and the documentary “The Pilgrims” by Ric Burns.
“Squanto’s Journey” by Joseph Bruchac
Tasquantum, or as the Europeans called him, Squanto, is an important player in the Thanksgiving story. Already fluent in English, Tisquantum was the Patuxet Indian who taught the Pilgrims how to grow and hunt their own food.
“Squanto’s Journey,” by indigenous author Joseph Bruchac, is a beautifully illustrated, narrative picture-book biography that tells the incredible but rarely told story of his kidnapping by European explorers, how he was freed from slavery in Spain, how he taught himself English and escaped to England from Spain, and how he found his way home on an English ship.
Written from his perspective, this book is as much a biography of Tisquantum as it is a book about Thanksgiving, but most of the book is about his benevolent relationship with the Pilgrims and the harvest feast of 1621. A useful endnote from the author lays out the facts of Squanto’s journey and the First Thanksgiving.
“The Thankful Book” by Todd Parr
This isn’t a Thanksgiving book, but it is a book that will help kids learn to be thankful for the things they have — and that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? We can be thankful for our feet (for running), for music (so we can dance), and even for our underwear (because they are fun to wear on our head).
Parr writes in simple, thoughtful sentences, and the thick, bold lines and high-contrast illustrations are perfect for sharing with the youngest of children.
Jordan Wright is the head librarian in Youth Services at the Ferndale Public Library. To learn more about these books or to reserve titles, visit
Sign up for email newsletters