Thanksgiving is a frustrating holiday for picture books. Sure, there are some entertaining books, but 90% of them seem to be about a turkey trying to escape being eaten. I don’t mind reading one or two of these, but too many gets a bit old. Also, I can’t help but wonder if it’s just going to make kids feel bad about their Thanksgiving Dinner, aka The One That Didn’t Get Away. That being said, I did read a couple of Turkey Escape books for this week’s Family Storytime (I did the Thanksgiving theme a week early because Chabad, a local Jewish outreach organization is coming to next week’s storytime to present a Chanukah theme). Here was my Thanksgiving line-up:
A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman; illustrated by Jeff Shelly
Every year, just before Thanksgiving, all the turkeys of Squawk Valley seem to vanish (actually they climb into hot air balloons and fly away to a tropical island). But this year the town has a plan: they will post fliers asking for a turkey to model for a turkey-themed Arts and Crafts Fair, and trick a bird into becoming their dinner. But of course, the turkey ends up being smarter than they thought. This is a longish rhyming story, but the kids loved the illustrations of all the turkey crafts: turkeys made of potatoes, and oatmeal, and even soap. There was a lot of clamoring to check this one out at the end.
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Allison Jackson; illustrated by Judy Byron Schachner One of my Thanksgiving standards. A clever parody of The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, about a woman who eats WAY too much: a turkey, a pot!, a ten-layer cake. The kids liked the twist at the end, when she becomes a big balloon float for the Thanksgiving parade. Great read-aloud for any age group.
Sometimes It’s Turkey, Sometimes It’s Feathers by Lorna and Lecia Balian
My daughter loves this book. Old Mrs. Gumm is excited to find a freckled egg hidden in some leaves. She takes it home, and sure enough, it hatches into a baby turkey, who eats and eats and eats. My daughter especially loves the lists of what the turkey eats: caterpillars, inchworms, pea gravel, and cat food, among other things. In November, Mrs. Gumm is ready with her hatchet, but by then the turkey has become a good friend who ends up joining her for Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, this is another book vilifying the turkey dinner, but the writing is full of warmth and wonder, especially when the egg hatches, and the illustrations are sweet. The kids all seemed to enjoy it too, since several of them asked to check it out.
The Dumb Bunnies’ Easter by Sue Denim; illustrated by Dav Pilkey I am currently living with Dumb Bunnies. We own the first book, and have the other three checked out, and my daughter insists on hearing at least one of them every day. And yes, they are dumb. But funny. This book is a crazy mishmash of almost every holiday, which is kind of the way I feel this time of year. The bunnies chop down an Easter tree, hang up Valentines, and carve a turkey like a jack-o-lantern. I wasn’t originally planning to read this one, but I had to bring my daughter with me to storytime last night, and she saw it in my pile. I was happy I did though, because the book is shelved in the Easter section, even though it covers several holidays, and we happened to have 6 copies for the kids to check out. It felt like Christmas when I handed them out at the end.
SONGS: The Turkey Jerky (To the Tune of the Hokey Pokey)
You put your left drumstick in (left leg)
You put your left drumstick out
You put your left drumstick in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Turkey Jerky and you turn yourself around
That’s what it’s all about!
Repeat with right drumstick, left wing, right wing, waddle (chin), and tail feathers.
I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly (with puppet)
We sing the song with the old lady puppet, and the kids take turns feeding her different animals. I have a big spider puppet I pull out for repeated line “It wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,” and I tickle the kids with it (usually they make a big game out of backing up out of reach, and saying, “It didn’t get me!”) At the end, our old lady dies, but we take her to the hospital and resuscitate her. Clearly, she needs counseling.
INSTRUMENT PLAYALONG WITH A CD: Rhubarb Pie by Laurie Berkner from her Under a Shady Tree Album
CRAFT: Paper Bag Turkey
I owe this craft to my coworker Gail Benjamin, who did it for a pajama story time at our other branch a few weeks ago. She had several turkey “kits” left, all ready to go (gotta love leftovers!), with instruction sheets and all the turkey parts in paper bags. Gail had pre-glued the googly eyes to the plastic spoons for the heads, and also glued the wattle to the bottom of each beak (these were made out of construction paper).
I handed out sheets of newspaper for the kids to crumple. They stuffed the paper inside their bag, then fastened the bag shut with rubber bands (the parents helped with this). Then the kids glued the construction paper feet and bowties on. We helped each kids poke their spoon handle head into the bottom of the paper bag. Then they glued the beak and wattle onto the spoon. The tail feathers were thin strips of colored paper.
Gail had recommended that the kids put glue inside the “tail” end of the bag, then arrange the paper feathers inside (she even gave me small containers of Elmer’s glue, which are perfect for small hands). That worked well, although if you want a slightly less messy approach, the mom of Ramona (whose turkey is pictured above) stuck her paper strips through the rubber band that separates the body from the tail.
OTHER THANKSGIVING BOOKS:
The Firefighters’ Thanksgiving by Maribeth Boelts; illustrated by Terry Widener
This is actually one of my favorite Thanksgiving books, and I would have done it if I hadn’t read it to the same group for my firefighter storytime a few weeks ago (I was going to do it anyway, if my daughter hadn’t seen the Dumb Bunnies book). Firefighters at a busy fire station try their best to make Thanksgiving dinner, but they keep getting called away to fires. Luckily, while they are on their last call, people from the community bring dinner to the station as a thank you. The text is rhyming, and simple enough to hold the interest of very young children.
The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
I didn’t get to read this one either, but it’s perfect for Thankgiving. With Todd Parr’s characteristic brightly colored, whimsical illustrations, this book lists many things to be thankful for every day: music, reading, bathtime, nature, and, of course, underwear!
‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey (Recommended by Heidi Locicero)
Another runaway turkey book, but a funny one. Eight kids on a field trip to Farmer Mack Nugget’s farm are horrified to find out what he plans to do with his adorable turkeys. Luckily for the turkeys, the kids hatch a plan of their own. My daughter loves this one almost as much as the Dumb Bunnies.
BREAKING NEWS! I found the best Thanksgiving book for elementary grades! (Actually, I stole it from my boss, Thom Ball, who had been planning to read it at Musical Storytime but went with something shorter). I read it to two second grade classes and they loved it. They kept asking, “Is this a true story?” And it is! The book is Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Matt Faulkner. It’s the story of Sarah Hale, the woman who wrote thousands of letters over the course of 38 years and finally succeeded in making Thanksgiving a national holiday. Anderson portrays Sarah Hale as a true superhero, who fought for lots of important causes like schools for girls and the abolition of slavery, and also wrote the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” She explains the context of Sarah’s cause, and her hopes that Thanksgiving would help unite a country torn apart by the Civil War. The caricature-like illustrations are funny and eye-catching, and it’s an excellent lesson in perseverance, democracy, and the power of words to bring about change. Highly recommended for libraries and classrooms.
What are your favorite Thanksgiving books?