A Thanksgiving Reading List

All Images: Sarah Pinault

One of my favorite things to shop for is books. All kinds of books. Used books, new books, books with my children’s names in the title, books from a preferred publisher, and holiday books. Holiday books come in many categories, but right now we are diving into our Thanksgiving and fall selection. What began as a meager offering has grown into quite the collection over the years. Some are good for little ears, some are educational, some are just fun. Before we transition to full-blown winter next Friday, we are taking a deep breath and enjoying some turkey time.

And so we begin with Turkey Time by Jodi Heulin and illustrated by Kelly Asbury. This was one of the first books we ever found when my eldest son was but a baby. It’s a simple board book with few words, which my husband instantly put to music. We can all recite this book from heart, well, sing this book from heart. It even has a sequel, Thanksgiving Parade. If you know me in real life, I will happily sing Turkey Time for you. Oh, and you also have to sing the words on the back of the cover, “The perfect treat for little gobblers.”

Silly Tilly’s Thanksgiving Dinner, written and illustrated by Lillian Hoban. Lillian and Russel Hoban are legends. Together they wrote The Mouse and His Child and Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas, classics to anyone raised in 1980s America. They each also wrote independently, and it is this tale of a short-sighted mole named Tilly that has captured our hearts. This is not the reason we call our daughter Tilly, it is but a perk. It’s a good book for young readers—short chapters with a nice story about misplaced invitations and friends we call family. Great to read aloud to the grandparents on Thanksgiving day.

The Turkey’s Side of It: Adam Joshua’s Thanksgiving, by Janice Lee Smith, illustrated by Dick Gackenbach. This is a short chapter book and the ideal bedtime read, a chapter a night in the week of Thanksgiving. It concerns the titular Adam Joshua and his participation in the elementary Thanksgiving school production—a classic. When Adam and his best friend Nelson are cast as turkeys in the school play, will they wobble gobble or gobble their way to star place?

Thanks for Giving, A Ready Freddy Reader, by Abby Klein, illustrated by John McKinley. Another easy to read book, this one about the canned food drive at an elementary school. It’s one of my all-time favorites. It tells the tale of a young boy, the class bully, and what being kind is really all about. I would read this to my kids every day if they would let me.

Thanksgiving for Emily Ann, by Teresa Johnston and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. This is a sweet story of a little girl named Emily Ann who is put out by the festivities and decides to exact her revenge. She, of course, gets foiled by the wonderfulness that is Thanksgiving with her family. It rhymes and my four-year-old requires this before bedtime every night.

The Ugly Pumpkin, written and illustrated by Dave Horowitz. This is another seasonal book that is a required nightly reading in our house. In this tale, our hero laments that he is never chosen from the pumpkin patch, rejected by both child and skeleton. Until one day he has an epiphany that changes his life. I will not spoil it for you here, but if you say it in a sweet little British voice when you get there, you will triple your enjoyment of the book.

Finally, the quintessential Thanksgiving book according to my husband, who has dubbed it the Mouse Soup of Thanksgiving and owns three copies. It’s Thanksgiving by Jack Prelutsky, illustrations by Marilyn Hafner. This is a collection of rhymes and poems about the day itself, the classroom preparations, the wish bone. You name it, there’s a poem about it.

We have a dozen or so books that cover the historical aspects of Thanksgiving, but as many of these were written in the seventies, we tend to skip over them and focus on the family and fall of the season rather than the historical inaccuracies prevalent in these books. What I really need is for Ken Jennings to write the book on Thanksgiving. That would be a Thanksgiving miracle.

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