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Classic Thanksgiving Picture Books: Cranberry Thanksgiving and The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for remembering the Pilgrims, the men and women who came to America searching for personal and religious freedom, and the day they set aside to thank God for their blessings. It is also a time to celebrate the bountiful harvest and friendship. There are two delightful books that meet these needs perfectly for students in the first and second grades of primary school.

The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving

First published in by Scholastic Book Services in 1973, The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern tells the story of the Pilgrims’ journey from their old country to the new on the Mayflower. It provides an honest look at the Pilgrims’ motivations for leaving their homes to start a new life in an unknown place. The story makes clear in a straightforward way the deprivation and hardship suffered by the Pilgrims during their journey and first year in America.

Written in a spare style, the book is broken down by season to explain the opportunities and challenges faced by the Pilgrims throughout that first year.

Scholastic has released two versions of this book with different illustrators. The first edition in 1973 is a smaller book with pen and ink drawings with blue shading added. The 1993 version features full color watercolor illustrations done by Elroy Freem. Although the 1993 version is certainly more colorful and perhaps pleasing to a child’s eye, the 1973 illustration style by Joe Lasker seems to be more in harmony with the simple language of the story itself.

In either case, this classic telling of the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving is a must-read for elementary-aged children.

Cranberry Thanksgiving

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin was published in 1971 by Parents’ Magazine Press. It is the story of a young girl named Maggie who lives with her Grandmother near a cranberry bog in New England. Each year they each invite a guest to Thanksgiving dinner which always includes Grandmother’s famous cranberry bread made with a very secret recipe.

Grandmother invites the dashing Mr. Horace while Maggie invites Mr. Whiskers. Grandmother cannot stand Mr. Whiskers and is sure he is out to steal her recipe. The story takes some interesting twists and ends up demonstrating that looks can be deceiving.

Cranberry Thanksgiving is a colorful book with fun illustrations and interesting characters. Perhaps most fun is the inclusion of Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread recipe at the end of the book. Making this recipe each year for Thanksgiving often becomes a beloved tradition for those who meet Maggie, Grandmother, Mr. Horace and Mr. Whiskers.

Thanksgiving is certainly a time for friendship, food and remembering the faith of the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving and Cranberry Thanksgiving are excellent books for introducing young readers to these very topics.


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