Giving Thanks Always: Two Children’s Thanksgiving Books

Everyday that I wake up I give thanks.  As a person who is grateful to wake up this morning, and as a school librarian, I’m sharing two books that talk about thanks and Thanksgiving from different perspectives.  These books may be found in your local library and/or can be purchased at

Thanks A Million by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. Publisher: Greenwillow Books. 2006.  ISBN-10: 068817292X; ISBN-13: 978-0688172923. 32 pages. Ages 5 and up.

Review from School Library Journal:

Kindergarten-Grade 4–Sixteen thoughtful poems about being thankful for everyday things. Grimes uses a variety of forms that include haiku, a riddle, and a rebus in selections that speak directly to the experiences of young children. In Lunch Box Love Notes, a big sister sometimes resents having to watch out for her baby brother, but a note left in her lunch box by her mother thanking her for taking such good care of Ray makes it worthwhile. Dear Teacher closes, Signed, David/who only hates math/½ as much/as he used to. A Lesson from the Deaf simply and eloquently describes saying thank you in sign language. Cabreras acrylic illustrations are distinctive, folksy, and effective. The art for Mystery is particularly effective, showcasing 42 children of different ethnicities in small, rectangular portraits. A lovely book for reflection and discussion.–Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

A Strawbeater’s Thanksgiving by Irene Smalls, illustrated by Melodye Benson Rosales. Publisher: Little Brown & Co. 1998.  ISBN-10: 0316798665; ISBN-13: 978-0316798662.  32 pages. Ages 7 and up.

Review from School Library Journal:

Grade 2-5-In this tale based on slave narratives, Smalls presents little-known traditions and unfamiliar figures of speech. At the annual corn-shucking party, seven-year-old Jess longs to be the “strawbeater” who, according to the author’s note, “stands behind a fiddler, reaches around his left shoulder, and beats on the strings while the fiddle is being played, in the manner of a snare drum.” He must wrestle Nathaniel, a bigger boy, for the honor, and when he is chosen for his tenacity rather than his brawn, the festivities begin. There is dancing, singing, good-natured competition, and plenty of food. The story line is somewhat stilted and would require some historical background to be fully appreciated. Rosales’s vibrant, full-color oil paintings carry the emotion and spirit of the day. The bright, bold reds and browns add a sense of power and strength. This is not as satisfying as Patricia and Fredrick McKissack’s Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters (Scholastic, 1994), but it helps to fill out the life stories of slaves and presents an interesting glimpse of a harvest celebration of the period.
Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY

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