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29 Thoughtful Thanksgiving Books for the Classroom


Thanksgiving can be a challenge for teachers. Most want to ensure an even-handed, culturally sensitive approach. That’s why we’ve carefully chosen these Thanksgiving books for all grades and ages. They include selections by indigenous authors, a look at holiday traditions, and unique views on what it means to be thankful.

(WeAreTeachers may collect a small portion of the profit from links within this article. Our editorial team handpicks these books and only showcases items we love!)

Thanksgiving Books for Elementary School Students

1. I Am Thankful by Sheri Wall

I Am Thankful by Sheri Walls (Thanksgiving Books)

The sweet rhyming refrain reminds kids of all they have to be thankful for. “I am thankful. My heart grows. Love fills me from head to toes.” This will be one of the pre-K crowd’s favorite Thanksgiving books.

Buy it: I Am Thankful on Amazon

2. Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

This Caldecott Honor book tells the story of Omu and her delectable stew. She shares it with the whole neighborhood, leaving none for herself. Fortunately, her neighbors return the favor and share in return.

Buy it: Thank You, Omu! on Amazon

3. Thank You Bees by Toni Yuly

Thank You Bees by Toni Yuly (Thanksgiving Books)

Nature gives us so many things to be grateful for! This lovely little book is a reminder that gratitude is all around us.

Buy it: Thank You Bees on Amazon

4. Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill

Around the Table that Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill

A diverse group of family and friends gathers for a meal, and each person brings a contribution with special meaning. Though it’s not specifically about a Thanksgiving meal, this tale captures the spirit of the holiday.

Buy it: Around the Table That Grandad Built on Amazon

5. Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes

Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes (Thanksgiving Books)

This poetry collection explores what it means to be thankful. It’s not specifically a Thanksgiving book, but it’s perfect for this time of year. We love that it includes a wide variety of poetry styles.

Buy it: Thanks a Million on Amazon

6. Giving Thanks: More Than 100 Ways To Say Thank You by Ellen Surrey

Giving Thanks: More Than 100 Ways to Say Thank You by Ellen Surrey

Kick off a conversation about gratitude with this ode to the many people, things, and experiences one boy is thankful for. This book includes directions for creating a gratitude jar and creative ideas for writing thank-you notes.

Buy it: Giving Thanks: More Than 100 Ways To Say Thank You on Amazon

7. Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf

Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf (Thanksgiving Books)

Each year, one group of family and friends treks into the woods to set up an outdoor Thanksgiving. This real-life story encourages kids to think about new ways to celebrate the holiday. It’s also a perfect holiday-themed mentor text for writing personal narratives.

Buy it: Thanksgiving in the Woods on Amazon

8. The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

Most students can relate to being a kid at a large family gathering, whether it’s Thanksgiving or not. If you can make it through the kissing, cheek-pinching “Hall of Aunts,” there is fun to be had!

Buy it: The Great Thanksgiving Escape on Amazon

9. Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules

Duck For Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules (Thanksgiving Books)

America is made up of people from many cultures and traditions. While many of them celebrate Thanksgiving, they don’t all do it with turkey and pumpkin pie. This tale encourages kids to learn more about what Thanksgiving dinner looks like in households across the country.

Buy it: Duck for Turkey Day on Amazon

10. Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell

Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell (Thanksgiving Books)

Thanksgiving has ties to Harvest Home festivals, when people gave thanks for a bountiful harvest. This book captures that spirit, with catchy rhyming text and joyful illustrations that make it a great read-aloud.

Buy it: Rainbow Stew on Amazon

11. Over the River and Through the Wood by L. Maria Child

Over the River and Through the Wood: The New England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day by L. Maria Child and Matt Tavares

Chances are this is one of those Thanksgiving books your students already know the words to! The lush and detailed illustrations make this version a lovely choice for story time.

Buy it: Over the River and Through the Wood on Amazon

12. Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet (Thanksgiving Books)

Many people start Thanksgiving Day by watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This fun book is rich in engaging images, telling the true story of Tony Sarg, puppeteer extraordinaire!

Buy it: Balloons Over Broadway on Amazon

13. Yum! ¡MMMM! ¡Qué Rico! by Pat Mora

Yum! MMMM! Que Rico! by Pat Mora

America harvests cranberries, pumpkins, and potatoes, but also so much more. This creatively illustrated collection of haiku about different crops includes accompanying informational facts for each.

Buy it: Yum! ¡MMMM! ¡Que Rico! on Amazon

14. We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell (Thanksgiving Books)

Thanksgiving is a particularly great time to share books written by and about indigenous people. This reflection on the Cherokee tradition of gratitude is both fascinating and moving.

Buy it: We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga on Amazon

15. Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard

This story sparks relevant conversations about the relationships between food, family, tradition, and culture. A modern-day family prepares a food that’s steeped in Native American history.

Buy it: Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story on Amazon

16. Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Thanksgiving by Deborah Heiligman

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Thanksgiving With Turkey, Family, and Counting Blessings by Deborah Heiligman

National Geographic published this text that’s full of fascinating facts about Thanksgiving and its history. It highlights the connection to the National Day of Mourning and shows how families celebrate today.

Buy it: Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Thanksgiving on Amazon

17. Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac

Squanto's Story by Joseph Bruchac (Thanksgiving Books)

If you want to be sure indigenous peoples’ stories are told well, choose books by indigenous authors. Bruchac, a member of the Abenaki tribe, delves into the story of Squanto, who features prominently in the story of the first Thanksgiving. The author tells the story from Squanto’s point of view, including his life before and after the arrival of the first Europeans.

Buy it: Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving on Amazon

18. Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo

Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo

A family road trip, a big meal, a gaggle of aunts, uncles, and cousins—these are the elements of celebrations across many cultures. Learn about the birth of new traditions, even those that go against the norms of mainstream culture.

Buy it: Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic on Amazon

19. Not This Turkey! by Jessica Steinberg

Not This Turkey! by Jessica Steinberg

When a Jewish immigrant wins a turkey in a raffle at work, his family dreams of having an “American Thanksgiving” like all their neighbors. The prize doesn’t turn out as expected, so they create their own traditions instead.

Buy it: Not This Turkey! on Amazon

Thanksgiving Books for Middle School Students

20. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace

National Geographic has published several Thanksgiving books, and this one is very popular for upper elementary and middle school. Check out the additional resources Plimoth Plantation offers for even more curriculum ideas.

Buy it: 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving on Amazon

21. The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune by P.J. Lynch

The Boy Who Fell off the Mayflower, or John Howland's Good Fortune by P.J. Lynch (Thanksgiving Books)

Not everyone aboard the Mayflower was a Pilgrim seeking religious freedom. John Howland boarded the ship as a teenage indentured servant. This tale brings the story of the first hard year at Plymouth to life.

Buy it: The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune on Amazon

22. Native American History for Kids by Karen Bush Gibson

Native American History for Kids by Karen Bush Gibson

November is Native American Heritage Month, so use this book as a starting point for exploration into their rich traditions and culture. It includes hands-on activities students will enjoy.

Buy it: Native American History for Kids on Amazon

23. Thanksgiving at the Inn by Tim Whitney

Thanksgiving at the Inn by Tim Whitney

Moving to a country inn complicates Heath’s already difficult relationship with his alcoholic father. It also introduces him to a cast of unlikely new characters. The arrival of Thanksgiving gives Heath more to think about than ever before.

Buy it: Thanksgiving at the Inn on Amazon

24. Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz

We’re often reminded that Pilgrims came to Plymouth as refugees seeking religious freedom. Thanksgiving is the ideal time to discover more refugee stories. Read about a German Jewish boy during World War II, a Cuban girl in 1994, and a Syrian boy in 2015.

Buy it: Refugee on Amazon

Thanksgiving Books for High School Students

25. Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War by Nathaniel Philbrick

Mayflower: Courage Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick (Thanksgiving Books)

This historical account of the Pilgrims’ arrival tells the good, bad, and ugly that followed. Painstakingly researched and told, this one goes far beyond questioning whether the first Thanksgiving meal actually included turkey.

Buy it: Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War on Amazon

26. There There by Tommy Orange

There There by Tommy Orange

If you’re using Thanksgiving as a springboard for conversations around the Native American experience, try this novel with your high school students. It follows 12 characters from native communities, making their way to the Big Oakland Powwow. Their stories are enlightening, heartbreaking, and sure to start a discussion in your classroom.

Buy it: There There on Amazon

27. This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving by David J. Silverman

This Land is Their Land by David. J. Silverman (Thanksgiving Books)

This “unsettling” history will challenge the way your students think about Thanksgiving, but that’s a good thing. They’ll develop a better understanding of the Wampanoag tribe and their lives before and after the arrival of the Mayflower.

Buy it: This Land Is Their Land on Amazon

28. The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa Fasthorse

The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa Fasthorse

Switch things up by reading this play aloud in class. It’s about a group of well-intentioned white teachers who want to put on a “woke” Thanksgiving pageant. Their own deep-seated prejudices cause unexpected problems. It’s funny and eye-opening all at the same time.

Buy it: The Thanksgiving Play on Amazon

29. Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience by Melanie Kirkpatrick

Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience by Melanie Kirkpatrick

The various sections of this book are perfect for a jigsaw discussion about the influences that shaped Thanksgiving into a symbol of American culture.

Buy it: Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience on Amazon

How do you approach this holiday in your classroom? What are your favorite Thanksgiving books to use? Come share on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, check out 10 Thanksgiving writing prompts inspired by children’s literature.





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