November 15, 2006

Thanksgiving books for families

q. shenaynay

When Fa and Beatrice were little girls, they adored all things pilgrimish. We collected and read through a tidy stack of lovely books about the pilgrims, but we have particularly fond memories of curling up on the sofa with Stories of the Pilgrims by Margaret Pumphries, a lively children's chapter book which follows the pilgrims' story from its beginnings in England to Holland and then across the water to Plymouth, all told through the lives of the pilgrim children.

After a few chapters, the girls began showing up for our reading sessions in costume, their imaginations completely swallowed up in the story: they were escaping to Amsterdam whilst the king's men pursued them... they were on the leaky Speedwell racing back to England before she sank... they were playing on the decks of the Mayflower, helping to name the babies born on board, planting corn with Squanto... The entire saga continued on long after the book was closed -- in our backyard, at Target, in the church parking lot, you name it.

Ten years later, they are in high school, but they still remember that book in vivid detail. They say it was one of the most "living" books I ever read to them. Now I'm reading it to Spuddy Buddy. He is getting caught up in all that magic. And as I read to him, the girls will pause on their way through the house to hear snatches of the story, sigh with nostalgia, and wander back to their own school books.

But way back in those little girl days, I wrote a post for an email list about the books we most enjoyed reading during the Thanksgiving season. Since Thanksgiving is still over a week away, it's not too late to curl up with a child or two and wallow in a one or more of these wonderful books. (Even if you're not a parent, surely you know at least one child who would enjoy that sort of attention from you?)

Here's that post... enjoy!

* * * * *

We find the story of Squanto absolutely intriguing -- it's truly the heart of the Thanksgiving story. Squanto was the thread God used to weave all that providence together. I never heard the whole story in school and I bet you didn't, either. Don't miss it.

One of our favorites was Squanto and the First Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas. We also checked out the video version from the library, which is not flashy visually but is narrated with quiet elegance by Graham Greene (a writer who is Native American and Christian). It made a big impression on all of us about the sovereign hand of God over the events of man, and opened the door for some wonderful conversations.

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, a newer Metaxas book, places even more emphasis on God's sovereignty over his life and is more deftly illustrated.

We also read Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla every other year or so. We are always once again amazed by this story of remarkable providence. This is a chapter book, but it's not long -- check it out now and you'll have time to finish it by Thanksgiving. Written on a middle elementary reading level, and good for grown-ups, too.

Four fantastic picture books by Kate Waters:
Sarah Morton's Day
Samuel Eaton's Day
Tapenum's Day
On The Mayflower

These are photographed re-enactments of things such as a typical day in the lives of two pilgrim children and an Indian boy. (Claire was so taken with Sarah Morton that we got her a copy to keep. Sometimes she was Sarah Morton for days on end.) The first two were photographed at Plimoth Plantation, and the Mayflower book was photographed on the Mayflower II replica ship. Very good books.

Others books we like -- most of these are top-rate picture books with lots of content, so they will be enjoyed by children from "5 to 105," as C.S.Lewis would say:

Standed at Plimoth Plantation 1626 by Gary Bowen -- absolutely beautiful woodcuts, carefully researched from historical documents.

The Pilgrims at Plymouth by Lucille Recht Penner -- a new Picture Landmark book

Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness

The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall

If You Sailed on the Mayflower by Ann McGovern

We also enjoy reading snippets from Eating the Plates, a book of Pilgrim manners and customs.

N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims is like walking through an museum watercolor exhibit on the Pilgrims -- in fact these paintings are on permanent display in a museum. These are a portion of the Metropolitan Life-commissioned murals of the Plymouth Colony that Wyeth was working on when he was killed in an automobile accident in 1941. They are simply not to be missed -- although I'm not dazzled by the text, which skips over any religious connections to the events, particularly the "Harvest Festival." Still, it's so lovely that I bought the book regardless (but then I'm easily persuaded to buy anything Wyeth illustrates!).

Happy reading!


Dani said...

When I was in kindergarden, Grandmother made pilgrim outfits for Mother and me and we wore them to school. I wore mine completely out. Then when I was older I wore hers to school and went and read to the kindergardeners and second graders the week before Thanksgiving.

I love some of those books. They were one of the first reasons that I liked American history. Now I'm trying to get a degree to teach it. Thanks for the list. I'll have to check out the ones I haven't read.

elliebird said...

Looking over these titles, evenings of reading (these very books, of course) by the fire are brought back to me. I loved all the Thanksgiving stories and especially loved participating in our annual school Thanksgiving play (whereas today, I wouldn't be caught dead in one of those plays...)

good times..

Blogger profile name said...

Sabra and I read one of the Squanto books - I can't think which one - last month. We try to read Stories of the Pilgrims every year at this time. The big thing is to start early so we'll finish in time, which I haven't done this year. Thanksgiving is really sneaking up on me!