Thanksgiving Books to Share with Your Little Turkeys

George was born on Turkey Day 2014. I may have shed a tear because I had to miss the actual feast.

Growing up, my mom would always pull out the stack of Christmas books along with our dusty holiday decorations. I have fond memories of revisiting the snow-covered illustrations and rhymes of so many Christmas books.


Thanksgiving, however? Are there Thanksgiving books?

I did a quick Google search to find out. And I found a few worth sharing.

I’ve decided children’s book authors have had way too much fun with “let’s save the turkey!” schtick in Thanksgiving books. Since animals are anthropomorphized in so many kid books, I think it’s an obvious connection. Why would we eat our friends? Why are adults so excited about eating a potential bestie? These are deep questions worth exploring.

troubleTurkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano

After Turkey Trick or Treat for Halloween, we meet up with Turkey again, but this time his life is in daaaanger! Just like his Halloween saga, Turkey spends the book dressing up like different farm animals to hide from the pending farmer’s ax. I love, love, love his solution to his pending beheading.

Since I’m now fully invested in this Turkey’s holiday tales, keep an eye out for Turkey Claus to see what kind of mischief Mr. Turkey finds himself in with Ol’ Saint Nick.

sillyFive Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon

This one caught my eye at the library while I was chasing Olivia while she pulled books off the board-book shelf. She’s sneaky like that. I love how this little board book has shiny, golden crinkle-feathers attached, which is just perfect for little, graspy hands. While I love that, I also loathe it, because how many graspy little hands have grabbed (i.e. shoved in mouth) that library book? Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.

This book is a cute, little skip through an easy-peasy rhyme. My favorite part? The last pages:

It cracks me up how the turkeys are eating Thanksgiving dinner. Well, at least they’re eating pie and corn instead of something a little more…personal.

beautyBeauty and the Beaks: A Turkey’s Cautionary Tale by Mary Jane and Herm Auch

So, uh, how do I put this politely? If your perfume-clouded, red-lipstick-wearing, beauty-shop-gossipin’ aunt wrote a book, this is how she would do it. I think that’s fair. To sum up, a turkey visits the Chic Hen beauty salon to brag about his pending attendance at an invite-only soiree (of which he doesn’t realize he’s the main course…of course). When Lance the turkey asks, “Wattle I do?”, Beauty the hen decides she and her hen friends need to save Lance the turkey, even with his arrogant tendencies. Using puns like “eggsclusive event,” “eggsposed” and “eggsercise,” the book waddles its way through friendship, humility, and a cross-dressing turkey. Also, the illustrations are…bizarre?

riverOver the River: A Turkey’s Tale by Derek Anderson (based on the song by Lydia Marie Child

I love when illustrations tell just as much of a story as the words. It feels like I’m getting a two-fer. We follow a little turkey boy (a “jake,” according to all-knowing Google) with Harry Potter glasses and a Griffindor scarf (see cover, left) on his adventure to his grandparents’ house. As we travel over the river and through the woods, we see how “the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh” (actually a sled) up the snowy hill to have some fun. Then a vicious hunting dog starts chasing the turkey family. Into verse two, the horse comes sliding down the hill (“trot fast, my dapple gray! Spring over the ground like a hunting hound, for this is Thanksgiving day”) and takes out the dog. In the end, of course, all anthropomorphized creatures are breaking bread together—sans the traditional fowl—for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a cute play on the song everyone knows so well.

mooseA Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting

This book was published in 1991, and it feels like it. It’s strangely wordy, but has a sweet heart. Mr. and Mrs. Moose are getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner with all of their friends. Mrs. Moose sighs how it isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey at the feast. Mr. Moose, being the thoughtful husband he is, takes it upon himself to find his wife a turkey. Woodland friends tag along, and, of course, there is a misunderstanding, which ends in friendship and food. Sounds like a traditional Thanksgiving to me!

night‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey

This has turned into my favorite Thanksgiving book thus far. First, I love how there’s a red-headed, freckled boy. You don’t see many of those in children’s book, weirdly enough. Second, who doesn’t like a riff on something traditional? A school bus full of children stops by a farm with eight tiny turkey.

More rapid than chickens

His cockerels they came.

He whistled and shoulted

And called them by name:

“Now Ollie, now Stanley, now Larry and Moe,

On Wally, on Beaver, on Shemp and Groucho!”

Um, hello. That’s funny. I don’t care who ya are!

The children fall in love with the turkeys, of course. But then…”Somebody spotted an ax by the door, and she asked Farmer Nuggett what it was for.” And that’s where the feel-goods stop. Until each child smuggles a turkey home under his or her shirt. George always explains to me that the children have “turkey in their bellies” as they waddle onto the bus. This is the same explanation I gave to him when I was pregnant with Olivia (except exchange “turkey” for “baby”).

turkeypoxTurkey Pox by Laurie Halse Anderson

I think this one appeals to me because I grew up in the heyday of chicken pox. We didn’t have chicken-pox “parties,” per se, but if one kid in the class got it, all the parents bit the bullet and shoved their kid in the infected kid’s direction. Teamwork makes the dream work, eh? Well, kids nowadays have these new-fangled vaccines, so they’ll never know the joy (i.e. extreme suffering) of the pox.

A little girl with a top-knot-with-bow that rivals my 1-year-old’s comes down with chicken pox on Thanksgiving day while her family is frantically trying to get to Nana’s house. Apparently, the girl’s high-strung aunt and cousin, Fred, live with them, as Aunt Imogene is shouting in all-caps on every other page. But she’s entertaining, I suppose. Well, Nana and a couple of burly snowplow drivers save the Thanksgiving day when they arrive on the family’s doorstep. Sweet, welcoming family fun.

P.S. Do NOT Google image “Turkey Pox.” Apparently, it’s a real fowl malady (pun intended!), and it looks g.r.o.s.s.

doorThe Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell

So, I’m getting snobby in my children’s literature picks. When I see an older book or one with an unexciting cover, I tend to skip it for something more interesting. Well, when I started browsing for Thanksgiving books (see the effort I put forth for you people?), I came across The Thanksgiving Door. Honestly, it’s sat at the bottom of our library-book pile since we came home with it weeks ago (see how I’m thinking ahead for you people?). Last night, when I was writing this post, I decided to crack it open.

Well, I’m clearly a dumb-dumb with mistaken prejudices against older books (published 2003…).

This sweet book tells the story of an older couple’s Thanksgiving meal, in which the wife burns the dinner. The thoughtful husband takes the wife to a restaurant (which may or may not actually be open to customers). The couple joins the restaurant’s owner and family for a traditional Thanksgiving feast, thereby teaching the message of Thanksgiving to the younger generation. It was quaint and perfect for a children’s Thanksgiving book.

Does your family share any Thanksgiving books this time of year? I’d love to start a tradition with my kiddos.

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