November Book Picks!
- Grades: 1–2
During the month of November, we have the opportunity to teach our students about the history of the first Thanksgiving. We are also inspired to read books about giving to others and showing appreciation, understanding, and respect for those around us. This booklist is sure to make learning about the true gifts of Thanksgiving an enjoyable experience. Click on the links to find out more about the amazing authors and illustrators featured here and to discover fun activities to enjoy this very special month. Here's to being thankful!
Photo: This handmade Thanksgiving card was made with love and care by Amelie and Rachel and sent to me by their teachers, Ruth Rosenthal, Cherise Sorenson, and Marci Dollinger at the Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Rafael, California. Big thanks to everyone who sent cards to Project Give! More Project Give updates are on the way.
Miss Mahoney's November Book Picks!
Photo: Volunteers from New York Cares in action at P.S. 212 in Jackson Heights, NY.
I start off my list with Shel Silverstein's classic story of unconditional love. During the month of October, volunteers from New York Cares visited my school to participate in New York Cares Day, an event to help spruce up New York City public schools. They painted beautiful murals that were inspired by the covers of classic children's books. One group of volunteers worked on a mural of The Giving Tree. When they said they'd never heard of it, I realized that not everyone reads children's books for fun! This is a must-read for both children AND adults. Shel Silverstein knows just how to tug at your heartstrings, as his words and illustrations tell the story of a special relationship between a boy (who asks for way too much) and a tree who never stops giving. The friendship between the boy and the tree will make you take a closer look at the relationships in your own life.
According to the Scholastic Book Wizard, "Giving Thanks is a special children's version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada and that is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations."
The book is beautifully illustrated and shares a message of gratitude. It will inspire you and your students to say, "Thank you," to all living things. In the author's note, Chief Jake Swamp says, "Our diversity, like all wonders of nature, is truly a gift for which we are thankful." As teachers, we have a responsibility to include these teachings in our curriculum, and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to do this. Don't you agree?
Thanksgiving Is . . . by Gail Gibbons
Gail Gibbons is a master of children's nonfiction writing. I use many of her books as mentor texts in my own nonfiction writing units. Her colorful headings, detailed illustrations, and helpful captions will guide your students as they learn all about Thanksgiving — past and present. If you are looking for a good overview of Thanksgiving traditions from long ago to present time, this is the perfect book for you to share with your students.
How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting
Eve Bunting illustrates the struggle of of one refugee family's journey to America in this touching story. As the family leaves their Caribbean island to find freedom in America, they take part in a dangerous trip, filled with hardship and hope. After many, many days of travel, they are greeted by Americans on shore who help them celebrate their arrival as they give thanks on Thanksgiving Day.
In a previous post, "Writing for a Cause," I showed how I use An Angel for Solomon Singer to launch a project that inspires students to create handmade cards for homebound seniors. Cynthia Rylant is truly one of my favorite authors.
Although this book seems very simple and is written in rhyme, it is jam-packed with facts about the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims. Your students will learn to compare and contrast the ways of life of the Pilgrims and Wampanoags by reading the words and looking carefully at the illustrations. You can make a T-chart or a Venn diagram to display all that you've learned after reading this fun Thanksgiving story.
Lisa McCourt's Happy Halloween, Stinky Face made it into my October Book Picks last month. I really like her writing, as well as Cyd Moore's illustrations. In The Most Thankful Thing, we get to peek inside a mother's scrapbook as she answers her daughter's question, "In your whole long, long, long life, what are you the very most thankful for?" This book is a great way to show students how they can keep their own personal journals to write about the wonderful things that happen in their everyday lives.
It doesn't get much simpler than this! Really colorful illustrations and simple, short sentences teach us to be thankful for all of the little things in life. A young girl is sent out to the store to buy fresh whipping cream to top off Thanksgiving dessert (yum!), and she shows an attitude of gratitude as she gives thanks to all she encounters along the way. Reading this book to a kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade class will inspire students to make their own lists of people and things they are thankful for. Have older students extend their responses by saying why they are thankful for each thing.
This collection of poems about one family's Thanksgiving experience is really worth adding to your classroom library. If you use poems for shared reading in your classroom, this book will give you plenty of resources for the month of November. In addition, the poems can be used to teach a variety of poetry styles to your students.
This is by far one of my favorite Thanksgiving books. OK, so it's not exactly about the history of the first Thanksgiving or how the Pilgrims and the Native American lived, but it does show the compassion of young children and their love for animals. An adaptation of the poem "The Night Before Christmas," this book is written in rhyme and filled with the most unbelievably expressive illustrations. During a class field trip, a group of young students discover that the turkeys they've visited with will be soon killed and cooked for Thanksgiving dinner. Shocked and upset, they smuggle the turkeys back home and save them from their terrible fate.
Dav Pilkey explains the story behind the book on his Web site. Along with the inspirational story about how the book was rejected many times before it was picked up by a publishing company, you'll see the original illustrations and storyboard drawings he created to plan for the writing of the book. His story and drawings may inspire the young writers in your classroom to create their own picture books. He also provides a link to The Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-A-Turkey Project. There are alternatives to eating turkey this Thanksgiving!! (I've been a vegetarian for a year now, and I'm still learning about healthier choices in my own diet.) Remember, not everyone is a meat eater in your classroom! You may actually have a few vegetarians in the group. Showing respect for all cultures and traditions is important. This book may be a jumping-off point to get conversations started about other foods eaten on Thanksgiving Day.
I just picked this book up at our Scholastic Book Fair last week. It's actually quite funny. Your students will get a kick out of this turkey as he attempts to disguise himself again and again so that Farmer Jake doesn't gobble him up for Thanskgiving dinner. The text is loaded with dialogue. Have fun teaching your students how to read dialogue with expression as the turkey interacts with the other animals on the farm. Lee Harper's illustrations are hysterical.
If you're interested in reading other books that feature turkeys escaping from being cooked up for Thanksgiving dinner, check out:
- Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley
- Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr
- The Great Turkey Race by Steve Metzger
Need more ideas for great books to share with your students this month? The Teacher Store at Scholastic.com has put together a list of Thanksgiving paperbacks to help you build your classroom library.
Have you checked out Scholastic.com's Thanksgiving resources yet? You won't believe your eyes! Take time to explore Thanksgiving Central. You will find books, videos, lesson plans and teaching extensions, slide shows, historical letters, Webcasts, interactive teaching tools, downloadable PDFs, free printables, clip art, and much, much more!
Project Give Update!
I am so thankful to all of the classroom teachers, Girl Scout troop leaders, homeschool moms, after-school teachers, speech and language pathologists, life skills teachers, and parents who took the time to teach the children in their lives the importance of giving to others by participating in Project Give. I've enjoyed reading all of the cards that were written with so much love. I'm still receiving packages and can't wait to report the grand total at the project's end. Hugs and thanks to all of you!