Are you looking for great mentor texts to share and analyze with your students during the month of November for the holiday season? Unfortunately there are a great many picture books about Thanksgiving that are, by and large, sub-par. Here I talk about the best Thanksgiving picture books for elementary school students.
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Do you know how the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade came to be? This story tells the tale of the man Tony Sarg. He started as a puppeteer and came to invent the upside down puppet balloons that would become the iconic symbol of the New York City holiday parade.
Melissa Sweet’s collage form of creating the book gives the feel of a sketchbook that Sarg likely used to plan how his balloons would work. She also recreates newspaper stories amongst other beautiful illustrations that really help bring this story to life.
An activity I like to do with this book is to compare and contrast what we learn in the story with a video of a parade or a historical video of the parade. Both provide different views of the parade that make it suitable for all elementary grades depending on how deep you get.
Check out my lesson plan and activities for Balloons Over Broadway HERE
Sarah Gives Thanks by Mike Allegra
This picture book is another great non-fiction story about Thanksgiving. I first read it as part of my Picture Book a Day challenge. This time it is a biography of Sarah Hale: the woman who organized the movement to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in the United States. When Sarah became widowed, she focused on writing to support her family.
She became an editor of a women’s magazine, wrote letters, and worked tirelessly to promote Thanksgiving as worthy of having a national holiday. Her efforts finally proved fruitful in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln formally recognized Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
What makes this one of the best Thanksgiving picture books is that it is more biography than holiday book. This book could just as easily be used for teaching about early feminists in Women’s History Month as Thanksgiving.
This book may be a little beyond Kindergarten, but I have used this book with groups as young as first grade and could use it up through fifth grade.
Check out my lesson plan and activities for Sarah Gives Thanks HERE
A Turkey For Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting
The first fiction book on the list. When you look at the author Eve Bunting, though, it makes sense. I’m a huge fan of Eve Bunting. She’s written books like Fly Away Home, One Green Apple, Gleam and Glow, and Train to Somewhere. The woman can spin a yarn!
This one is no different. Mr. and Mrs. Moose have invited everyone to their home for Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone is coming. Mrs. Moose says that there is one thing missing. She has always wanted a turkey for Thanksgiving. So Mr. Moose sets off in search of a turkey and finds one. He is loathe to come, though, and he fears the worst.
Turkey turns out to be the guest of honor. The surprise ending and clever use of language are what really make this story stand out and make it worthy of my short list of the best Thanksgiving picture books.
Check out my lesson plan and activities for A Turkey For Thanksgiving HERE
Gracias The Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley
Similar to A Turkey For Thanksgiving, this story involves a friendly turkey. Miguel receives a live turkey from his father, a truck driver, to care for and keep to eat on Thanksgiving. He decides to name the turkey Gracias and they quickly become friends and Miguel’s community helps him care for her. Miguel decides that he does not want to eat his new friend, and they instead eat chicken for Thanksgiving.
This book is an excellent multicultural read aloud with Spanish words seamlessly woven into the text. An activity I like to do is compare and contrast this story with A Turkey For Thanksgiving.
Check out my lesson plan and activities for Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey HERE
Best Thanksgiving Picture Books
While this list is short, our time to teach about different holidays is limited with the demands of curriculum. The books on this list, however, are such that they can be used to teach both literature and informational text standards from Common Core or your own state’s standards.
Get lesson plans and activities for all three of these books HERE
Do you have any other books that you would add to this list?
Let me know in the comments!
[…] The true story of Sarah Hale and how she campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She was a writer and women’s magazine editor and petitioned multiple presidents to make it a holiday. Finally, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln finally listened to her years of work and campaigning and made Thanksgiving a national holiday. A great book about activism for kids that shows that it can take years to bring about change. Also a favorite book for Thanksgiving. […]