And what could be a better way to be thankful than with some tremendous picture books? As is the case with so many holidays, it's not easy to find multicultural titles for Thanksgiving -- but we managed to find a few that round out the experience by helping us look at the holiday with a fresh perspective.
First up is Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley. I love this book for its humor and heart as well as the colorful illustrations by Joe Cepeda. In the story, Miguel's Papa, a long-haul trucker, sends home a live turkey for the family to fatten up for Thanksgiving dinner. Miguel names the turkey Gracias, and as you might expect, he's reluctant to make her a meal when the time comes around. Still, Miguel's grandfather's all for putting Gracias on the turkey platter - but an unexpected intervention from the parish priest saves Gracias at the last minute. There are lots of great lessons here, including the importance of friendship and responsibility, and plenty to talk and think about.
Next is Giving Thanks by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup Jr. Subtitled A Native American Good Morning Message, this isn't a title that should be restricted to Thanksgiving, but with the spirit of gratitude we all have in our hearts at this time of year, it seems a good fit. The text is clear and simple, filled with appreciation for all the beauty and bounty in the natural world around us. And the illustrations are just breathtaking - vibrant and warm, simple and yet full of emotional depth. Best of all, this title is free of some of the most persistent stereotypical images we find in so many Thanksgiving books, and it reinforces the idea that we all have much to be thankful for.
If pilgrims are on your mind, why not check out Molly's Pilgrim? This is an older title, written by Barbara Cohen and most recently illustrated by Daniel Mark Duffy. Though its cover is somewhat subdued (albeit beautiful), the message behind it is a fantastic one. Molly and her parents are from Russia, having come to America for freedom after the Cossacks sacked their village and burned out many other Jewish families. When Molly is assigned a project to make a pilgrim woman for the school Thanksgiving display, Molly's mama makes one that looks just like her. But it doesn't look like the pilgrims in Molly's textbooks. Will the other girls make fun of Molly for this, like they do for so many other things? A tale of inclusion and acceptance, this story speaks volumes, especially to those new to the tradition of American Thanksgiving.
Tradition is what you make it, wouldn't you agree? Still, it's hard when your family doesn't go along with what everyone else does. That's the conflict at the center of Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Kathryn Mitter. Tuyet is excited to be celebrating Thanksgiving with her family, especially her cousins and her grandmother from Viet Nam. But she's a little upset that the family will be having duck for dinner, not turkey, as she's sure everyone else will be having. Tuyet tries to talk the problem over with her mother and grandmother, but they are sticking to their guns - and Tuyet has to admit that the duck with its spicy sauce is pretty tasty. But what will happen when she tells her friends at school that her family didn't have turkey? An unexpected ending to this tale not only reassures but also confirms that there's no one right way to celebrate!
This year, add a little extra flavor to your celebration with one of these great multicultural titles -- and make it a truly American Thanksgiving!