Picture Books for Your Thanksgiving Table

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Deepen your holiday experience through story.

Thanksgiving can seem like a very self-conflicted holiday.

On one hand, this national day of feast has grown into a wonderful ritual of coming together to celebrate our blessings. On the other hand, it is still rooted in deeply problematic representations of native peoples and our national history.

Here’s another contradiction. As its title implies, Thanksgiving is a spirited, ready-made opportunity to celebrate the abundance in our lives. Unfortunately, this holiday also marks the unofficial kick-off to holiday shopping, wish lists, and a nationwide plague of “the gimmes.”

Don't let tired stereotypes and holiday greed overshadow your family’s Thanksgiving. Explore this growing list of picture books with your children, and take time to deepen your holiday experience.


Conversation Starters

  • Why is it so easy to forget the many things we are grateful for when we discover something new that we desperately want?

  • How can we remind ourselves to be satisfied with the good things already in our lives?

  • What if we woke up tomorrow and only had the things we expressed gratitude for today?

  • How can we tell the difference between what we need and what we want?

  • Is it wrong to want something more when you have so much?

  • Is it hard to feel grateful when you’ve had a difficult day? What can we do to remind ourselves of gratitude even when we’re not feeling very happy or grateful?

Featured Title

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Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp
This 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. Its celebration of so many things we universally cherish – love, nature, gratitude – make this a wonderful book to revisit throughout the year or read around the Thanksgiving table.


Additional DGT Favorites

The Circle of Thanks: Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac
This collection features works by Native American tribes including Cherokee, Kwakiutl, Pawnee, Navajo, and Papago. The assorted poems and songs offer wonderful food for thought on the topic of gratitude, family, and the rituals of celebration.

Grateful: A Song of Giving Things by Jon Bucchino
Including sheet music and a CD, this song-in-a-book invites readers to consider all they are thankful for in a peaceful, meditative way.

Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora
This poetic and joyful story introduces us to a young biracial boy as he celebrates the many reasons he feels thankful.

How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting
A family is forced to flee their Caribbean island and set sail for America in a small fishing boat. They arrive on Thanksgiving Day, having experienced fears and hardships very similar to those faced by those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving. This is a very moving story sure to open a conversation about compassion and courage.

The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood
In the soothing, inspirational style Douglas Wood is famous for, this book unlocks the secret of gratitude. Parents will look forward to spending time with this gentle book.

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac
Learn about the Pokanoket tribe, in Squanto’s Journey by Joseph Bruchac, an author of Native descent. This exceptional biography is perfect for thoughtful grade-schoolers. The overarching tone is both tender and realistic, as it introduces aspects of the history that are too often glossed over or misrepresented. This book will help ground your holiday celebration in a nuanced and respectful historical context.

The Table Where Rich People Sit by Bryd Baylor
A young girl learns from her family that being rich is not just about material wealth.

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon by Grace Lin
Expand your conversation from American history to a similar fall tradition: the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Grace Lin’s story is simple and wonderful to read aloud.  The Moon Festival is one of the most important holidays of the year, and though it usually falls in September, this book’s theme of thankfulness, togetherness, and harvest celebrations fits nicely with the other books on this list.

Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes
Explore gratitude through 16 beautiful poems sure to illuminate the power of saying thanks.

The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose
This classic picture book introduces children to some of the hundreds of groups that made their homes in America long before Columbus set sail. Learn more about the traditions and lives of a variety of native peoples across the continent.

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The recommendations we offer are based solely on our mission to empower parents to raise children who care and contribute.