Thanksgiving books for young children

Many books about Thanksgiving for young children are problematic. Many books have colorful drawings of happy Pilgrims and happy Native Americans feasting together in friendship and joy. As we now know, this portrayal of the first Thanksgiving is a myth. In my opinion, it is best to avoid these types of picture books for young children. So what to do?

One idea is to simply focus on books that emphasize gratitude, without wading into the muddier waters of life in the 1600’s. Some title suggestions are:

(This last book is a look at modern Native American life as
told by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.)

Then, when your children are a little older, read and talk about what we know about the real first Thanksgiving. One highly recommended book – for children ages 10 and up – is 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac with Plimoth Plantation:

The last idea is to read books to your children about and written by Native Americans all year long, and not just during November’s Native American Heritage Month. Some recommended titles are:

Find more titles here and here. More information about this topic in general can be found here.

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

This is the perfect book at the perfect time. The story provides a gentle way to give kids some background knowledge behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

Summary from GoodReads:

From New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone comes a middle grade road-trip story through American race relations past and present perfect for fans of Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds.

How to Go on an Unplanned Road Trip with Your Grandma:
* Grab a Suitcase: Prepacked from the big spring break trip that got CANCELLED.
* Fasten Your Seatbelt: G’ma’s never conventional, so this trip won’t be either.
* Use the Green Book: G’ma’s most treasured possession. It holds, history, memories, and most important, the way home.

What Not to Bring:
* A Cell Phone: Avoid contact with Dad at all costs. Even when G’ma starts acting stranger than usual.

Set against the backdrop of the segregation history of the American South, take a trip with New York Times bestselling Nic Stone and an eleven-year-old boy who is about to discover the world hasn’t always been a welcoming place for kids like him, and things aren’t always what they seem–his G’ma included.

Find it in CWMARS.

Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros

Readers get to walk a mile in Efren’s shoes and really feel what it’s like to have a parent deported and to have to parent your own siblings. Reading builds empathy and this one does it well.

Summary from GoodReads:

Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman – or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved.

But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.

Now more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and try to reunite his family.

Find it in CWMARS.

Winterhouse by Ben Guterson


I loved this book! Strong female lead, great example of a solid boy and girl friendship, awesome setting, puzzles, mystery, clues, fantasy elements and fun full page illustrations to boot! I can’t wait to read the sequels!

Summary from GoodReads:

Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms―most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to care for, and even Winterhouse itself?

Mystery, adventure, and beautiful writing combine in this exciting debut richly set in a hotel full of secrets.

Find it in CWMARS.



Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins


This book has popped up on many “If you like Harry Potter, try these books” lists. It’s really good! I would probably compare it more to The Hobbit than to HP; but I think it makes the lists because it’s an adventure tale with strong world building. This series is written by the same author who wrote The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is best for teens, this series is perfect for that 8-12 years range.

Summary from GoodReads:

This irresistible first novel tells the story of a quiet boy who embarks on a dangerous quest in order to fulfill his destiny—and find his father—in a strange world beneath New York City.

When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor’s arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland’s uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it — until he realizes it’s the only way to solve the mystery of his father’s disappearance. Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.

Find it in CWMARS.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien


I reread The Hobbit for the first time since my teens and really enjoyed it. All Harry Potter fans should read this book; it’s obvious that Tolkien influenced the writing of J.K. Rowling. A classic adventure story.

Summary from GoodReads:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.

Find it in CWMARS.

When Stars are Scattered by Omar Mohamed


This is a really special and beautiful book. The illustrations and coloring are beautiful. The story is beautiful. You will be touched and inspired by this story of two brothers. The authors write, “It is a valiant and agonizing struggle to focus not on what you have LOST…but on what you have been GIVEN.” Recommended for ages 9-12.

Summary from GoodReads:

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day.

Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.

Find it in CWMARS.

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley


Any work by Knisley is a delight and her first foray into juvenile graphic novels is no exception. Fun reading for anyone, but perfect for any child of divorce. Recommended for children 8-12 years.

Summary from GoodReads:

Jen did not want to leave the city. She did not want to move to a farm with her mom and her mom’s new boyfriend, Walter. She did not want to leave her friends and her dad.

Most of all, Jen did not want to get new “sisters,” Andy and Reese.

If learning new chores on Peapod Farm wasn’t hard enough, then having to deal with perfect-at-everything Andy might be the last straw for Jen. Besides cleaning the chicken coop, trying to keep up with the customers at the local farmers’ market, and missing her old life, Jen has to deal with her own insecurities about this new family . . . and where she fits in.

Find it in CWMARS