Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday of the year, so I’ve been anxious to share my favorite books on the topic! This is a holiday steeped in Americana and Christianity. I take exception to the modern notion that the Pilgrims were nothing but white Indian killers who only wanted free land. Do you know why? Because they documented everything they did, and the reasons for doing those things, and they admitted their shortcomings as well as celebrating their victories. They came to this land for religious freedom, they respected and feared the Indians and learned from them. They were helpless and weak and ignorant of this new land, and they depended on God and the generosity of the Indians to get them through the first difficult years. They learned many lessons and they shared those lessons with future generations by carefully documenting everything in letters, pamphlets, and even published books.
So, for Thanksgiving, you won’t find me sharing any books with turkeys. Over the years I’ve found some real treasures that bring Pilgrim history alive and that’s what we focus on in our home.
Of Plymouth Plantation
My absolute favorite book is the one written by William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Plantation. He tells the story, in his own words, of the Pilgrims’ life in England, then Holland, and finally, their journey to America. By the time he tells of their Thanksgiving celebration, you will thank God right along with the Pilgrims for such basic gifts as corn, fish, and rain. Since this book was written in the 1600’s, the language is not the easy English of today; it’s suitable reading for teenagers and adults, but could also be read aloud to younger children. In my opinion, there is no better history book about the Pilgrims.
Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth
Similar to Of Plymouth Plantation is Mourt’s Relation, the first published report of life at Plymouth by an anonymous resident of the village. It gives detailed accounts of the daily lives of the Pilgrims from the time the Mayflower landed through the first Thanksgiving. It’s also good for teenagers and adults, or read-aloud to younger children.
Now, for a book that’s on a child’s level. Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey is a wonderful, fun chapter book that relates all of the stories from the books above in an easy-to follow adventure. It was written in the early 1900s and was based on the writings of Governor Bradford. The reading level is elementary, and again, makes a great read-aloud.
Three Young Pilgrims
One of my favorite picture books for young children is Three Young Pilgrims. It’s the perfect story for little ones, giving them a look at the New World through the eyes of the children on the Mayflower.
Other notable Thanksgiving books:
Pocahontas by Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
Skip over the Disney version and read a reall book about Pocahontas and her role with the pilgrims!
Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Mentaxas
Great retelling of the important role that Squanto played in the survival of the Pilgrims.
Sarah Morton’s Day and Samuel Eaton’s Day
Using photographs from Plimouth Plantation, these books show how Pilgrim children lived. Fun for kids!
Thanksgiving on Thursday (Magic Tree House)
My kids like Magic Tree House books, and they all deal with a point in history. There is also a companion study guide for this one.
Focus on the Family Radio Theatre presents The Legend of Squanto
This is a 2-part dramatized retelling of the story of Squanto. It’s free to listen at the above link. You can also order your own copy here. iTunes also has it for download for only $5.99 (just search for The Legend of Squanto).
I hope you find something new to add to your Thanksgiving reading list! There’s so much to learn from these early Americans, and the most important IS their attitude of Thanksgiving in every circumstance.