Our daughter-in-law called last week and asked for a book to help our four-year-old grandson understand what Thanksgiving is all about. Here are three that we have carried for some time that I think are good introductions for young people.

first thanksgiving The First Thanksgiving is a great book for younger students. It tells the story in a simple way, but with lots of interesting detail and engaging pictures. Its important to note that the first Thanksgiving was not the first thing the Pilgrims did after they got off the Mayflower. The first Thanksgiving was a response to the bountiful harvest that they enjoyed at the end of their first year in the New World – after having survived the terrible first winter when half the Pilgrims died. Step 3 books are designed for grades 1-3 when children are first reading on their own. Of course, it can be read to younger children of any age! Abe Lincoln’s Hat, Christopher Columbus, and Pocahontas are other Step 3 titles. Pompeii, Tut’s Mummy, and Titanic are Step 4 titles.

three young pilgrims For slightly older students, I recommend Cheryl Harness’ Three Young Pilgrims. It tells the heart-breaking story of the Allerton children. When the Allerton family first steps from the Mayflower after 60 days at sea, they never dream that life in the New World will be so hard. Richly detailed paintings show how the Pilgrims lived through the dark winter and into the busy days of spring, summer, and fall, culminating with the excitement of the original Thanksgiving feast.

Mary, Remember, and Bartholomew are the Three Young Pilgrims. Together with their parents, they set sail for the new world in 1620. During the first winter, almost half the Pilgrims died, including the children’s mother and her new baby. But the second summer’s harvest was bountiful and the Pilgrims held a feast to give thanks to the Maker. More colonists joined the Pilgrims and more settlements were established. When Mary Allerton Cushman died in 1699, she was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower.

It is a remarkable story, very skillfully told. And Cheryl Harness’ illustrations are wonderfully detailed with more than a few whimsical, but accurate details. This is a great book to introduce the Thanksgiving story to your children.

Landing of the PilgrimsThe Landing of the Pilgrims, written in 1950, by Newbery-award-winning author James Daugherty is a wonderful retelling of the background to the Pilgrim colony in New England. The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is titled “Not as Other Men,” and tells the story of the Separatists in England and their decision to leave their homes and emigrate to Holland, and their eventual disappointment at the circumstances there and decision to move once again. Part 2 is titled “Between Two Worlds” and tells the story of the voyage and exploration of the New England coast Don’t miss the account of young John Howland being washed overboard and rescued which begins on page 37 (I’m a direct descendant of John Howland!). Part 3, titled “New England Adventure” tells the story of the first three years of the colony and includes an account of the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Like all the Landmarks, this is one of the outstanding history books for young people. Independent reading level is grade 6 and up, but younger readers will enjoy hearing it read out loud.

As your family gathers together for Thanksgiving – remind each other of the honorable tradition handed down by our ancestors and let us give thanks to God for his many blessings.

-Rob Shearer
Publisher, Greenleaf Press
Director, Schaeffer Study Center