In today’s blog post, we will delve into the world of nonfiction Thanksgiving books that are perfect for young readers. As the leaves turn golden and the air grows crisp, Thanksgiving is a time to gather, reflect, and give thanks. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to explore the rich tapestry of stories and traditions surrounding this cherished holiday. Whether you’re an educator looking to enrich your classroom discussions, a parent seeking meaningful stories to share with your children, or simply a book lover eager to dive into the season’s spirit, this curated list of nonfiction books is sure to enlighten and entertain.
Each book we’ve selected offers a unique perspective on Thanksgiving, from historical accounts of the first Thanksgiving to modern celebrations of gratitude and community. These stories not only educate but also inspire, highlighting themes of thankfulness, cultural diversity, and the importance of coming together.
Related: Top 20 Thanksgiving Books for Kids
Nonfiction Thanksgiving Books for Young Readers
Here is our collection of featuring some of the best nonfiction Thanksgiving Books for young readers:
1. If You Lived During the Plimoth Thanksgiving, by Chris Newell
In “If You Lived During the Plimoth Thanksgiving,” Chris Newell offers a vivid and engaging exploration of the first Thanksgiving, answering questions that captivate young minds. This book, part of Scholastic’s “If You Lived…” series, uses a question-and-answer format to delve into what life was like during the time of the English colonists and the Wampanoag people. From the clothes worn to the food eaten, Newell provides a comprehensive look at the historical event. The book stands out for its balanced perspective, presenting both sides of the story and tracing the evolution of this feast into a national holiday. It’s an excellent resource for educators and parents looking to enrich their children’s understanding of Thanksgiving’s true story and its significance.
2. I Am Thankful: A Thanksgiving Book for Kids, by Sheri Wall
Sheri Wall’s “I Am Thankful: A Thanksgiving Book for Kids” is a heartwarming story that teaches children the essence of gratitude during Thanksgiving. Through charming rhymes, the book follows three different families, each celebrating the holiday in their unique way, filled with kindness and giving back. The narrative is beautifully complemented by illustrations that showcase diverse families and their Thanksgiving adventures. This book is more than just a story; it’s a gentle guide for young readers to appreciate the people and world around them, making it a perfect read for the holiday season.
3. Thanksgiving Is . . ., by Gail Gibbons
Gail Gibbons’ “Thanksgiving Is . . .” is a delightful and informative journey through the history and traditions of Thanksgiving. Gibbons uses clear, kid-friendly language to explain the holiday’s roots in ancient harvest celebrations, the story of the Pilgrims, and the evolution of Thanksgiving into a national holiday. Accompanied by colorful watercolor illustrations, this book is a treasure trove of information, covering everything from the historical significance of the feast to the various traditions and celebrations that have developed over the years. It’s an ideal pick for parents and teachers who want to provide a comprehensive understanding of Thanksgiving to young learners.
4. Taylor the Tooting Turkey, by Humor Heals Us
In a light-hearted departure from traditional Thanksgiving tales, “Taylor the Tooting Turkey: A Story About a Turkey Who Toots (Farts)” by Humor Heals Us presents a humorous and endearing story about Taylor, a turkey with a unique problem: she toots. This book, part of the “Farting Adventures” series, is sure to elicit giggles and laughter from young readers. While it may not delve into the historical aspects of Thanksgiving, it offers a playful and fun reading experience, perfect for lightening the mood and entertaining children during the holiday season.
5. History Smashers: The Mayflower, by Kate Messner
Kate Messner’s “History Smashers: The Mayflower” is a fascinating dive into the often untold stories of the Mayflower’s journey. This book challenges the traditional narratives, revealing surprising facts like the Pilgrims’ unexpected stop before reaching Plymouth and the existence of a second, leakier ship, the Speedwell.
Messner, through a mix of illustrations, graphic panels, photographs, and sidebars, brings history to life in an engaging and accessible way. It’s perfect for young readers who are curious about the real stories behind the legends of the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving, offering a fresh perspective on this pivotal moment in history.
6. Over the River and Through the Wood, by Lydia Maria Child
“Over the River and Through the Wood” by Lydia Maria Child, illustrated by Christopher Manson, is a delightful journey into the wonders of winter and the Thanksgiving tradition. Set in the nineteenth century, this story is brought to life through Manson’s striking wood carvings, capturing the essence of winter activities like sledding and ice-skating, and the warmth of the Thanksgiving feast. It’s a nostalgic and visually captivating book that celebrates the joy and togetherness of the holiday season, making it a timeless read for children and adults alike.
7. We Gather Together: Celebrating the Harvest Season, by Wendy Pfeffer
In “We Gather Together: Celebrating the Harvest Season,” Wendy Pfeffer offers an enlightening exploration of the fall equinox and its significance in various cultures. This book beautifully intertwines the science of weather with the history of harvest celebrations around the world.
It marks the transition from summer to autumn, longer nights, and shorter days, and how this change has been celebrated historically. Pfeffer’s work is an excellent resource for understanding the deeper meaning of the harvest season and the global traditions that accompany this time of year, making it a valuable addition to any Thanksgiving-themed reading list.
8. What Was the First Thanksgiving?, by Joan Holub
Joan Holub’s “What Was the First Thanksgiving?” is an insightful look into the historical event that has become an American holiday. The book recounts the story of the Pilgrims at Plymouth who, after their first harvest in 1621, shared a three-day feast with their Native American neighbors. Holub presents this momentous occasion in a way that is both educational and engaging for young readers.
The book sheds light on how this gathering was not recognized as the start of a new tradition at the time, but rather as a significant moment of cooperation and celebration that would eventually lead to the holiday we know today. This book is a great tool for teaching children about the origins and significance of Thanksgiving.
9. Harvest Days: Giving Thanks Around the World, by Kate DePalma
In “Harvest Days: Giving Thanks Around the World” by Kate DePalma, young readers are taken on a global journey to explore harvest festivals across various cultures. The book’s lyrical, rhyming text and lush illustrations by Martina Peluso beautifully present ancient traditions from around the world.
It includes nine pages of rich, educational endnotes that delve deeper into the 12 cultures featured, encouraging young readers to think critically about food, its sources, and the labor involved in its production. This book is an excellent resource for teaching children about the diversity of harvest celebrations and the universal spirit of gratitude.
10. Duck for Turkey Day, by Jacqueline Jules
“Duck for Turkey Day” by Jacqueline Jules is a heartwarming story about Tuyet, a Vietnamese American girl who worries about her family’s unconventional Thanksgiving dinner choice: duck instead of turkey. This book beautifully addresses themes of cultural diversity and the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
Tuyet’s experience and the varied Thanksgiving dinners of her classmates highlight that the essence of the holiday is not in the specific foods but in the joy of family gatherings. It’s a delightful read for children from diverse backgrounds, affirming that there is no single “right way” to celebrate an American holiday.
11. We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, by Traci Sorell
“We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga” by Traci Sorell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is a captivating book that introduces young readers to the concept of gratitude as practiced by the Cherokee people. The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is a Cherokee expression of gratitude, and the book follows a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences.
This insightful read is enriched with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, offering an authentic glimpse into the culture and traditions of the Cherokee Nation. It’s an invaluable resource for teaching children about the diverse ways gratitude is expressed and celebrated in different cultures.
12. Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey, by Joy Cowley
“Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey” by Joy Cowley is a delightful story set in a New York City neighborhood, where a young Puerto Rican boy, Miguel, forms an inseparable bond with his turkey companion. This heartwarming tale explores themes of friendship, community, and cultural traditions.
Miguel’s refusal to consider his beloved turkey for the Thanksgiving table leads to a series of charming adventures, delighting everyone in their community. The book is a wonderful celebration of Thanksgiving, showcasing how the holiday spirit can bring people together in the most unexpected ways.
13. A Turkey for Thanksgiving, by Eve Bunting
“A Turkey for Thanksgiving” by Eve Bunting is a delightful and heartwarming story that turns the traditional Thanksgiving narrative on its head. Mr. and Mrs. Moose are excited to host their animal friends for Thanksgiving dinner, but they notice that Turkey is missing. As they set out to find him, Turkey is filled with fear, mistakenly thinking he’s going to be the main course.
This charming tale, filled with humor and warmth, is perfect for teaching children about friendship and the true spirit of Thanksgiving. It’s a wonderful story that reassures young readers that sometimes things aren’t quite as they seem, and the importance of being a part of a community.
14. Thanksgiving in the Woods, by Phyllis Alsdurf
“Thanksgiving in the Woods” by Phyllis Alsdurf is a beautifully told story based on a true tradition of a family in Upstate New York. This book captures the essence of a unique Thanksgiving celebration held annually in the woods. The story is a testament to the power of family, faith, and friendship, as everyone comes together to share food, sing songs, and enjoy each other’s company in a picturesque outdoor setting.
The narrative is complemented by warm illustrations that bring to life the joy and communal spirit of this special event. This book is part of the Countryside Holiday series and is a wonderful read for those looking to explore different and heartfelt ways to celebrate Thanksgiving, emphasizing simplicity, community, and generosity.
From the historical voyages of the Mayflower to the contemporary tales of gratitude and community, these nonfiction Thanksgiving books are key for helping kids understand and appreciate the deeper meanings of this amazing event. Whether you’re sharing these stories in a classroom, reading them at home with family, or enjoying them for your own pleasure, they’re sure to add depth and richness to your Thanksgiving celebration.