4 Books that Explore the History of Thanksgiving

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

A Slice of History
Four Non-fiction Titles for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving ties us to those colonists who nearly four hundred years ago celebrated their first harvest in a small coastal community now known as Plymouth. The holiday also ties us to the Wampanoag Indians who were vital in helping the Pilgrims survive their new world.

Every year Americans prepare their feasts of thanksgiving, each celebration an echo of that very first feast in 1621. Here are four non-fiction books that give interesting perspectives about our national holiday, dispelling some of the more romantic myths and introducing some fascinating facts. This year along with your harvest feast, go ahead and have a slice of history too.

1621: A New Look At Thanksgiving written by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, with photographs by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson. In this photo essay, the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving feast is re-enacted at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, MA.  Recorded by National Geographic photographers over three days, the book dispels the more romantic myths of pilgrims dressed in buckles and hats, and Indians wrapped in blankets. And instead gives “a new look,” a fresh perspective, to the beginning of our national holiday. Historically accurate, with full-color photos, the book brings this important piece of history to life, and in particular, gives voice to the Wampanoag Indians’ role in helping the pilgrims to survive. (Published by National Geographic Children’s Books, Washington, D.C., 2001. ISBN: 0-79-22702-74. 48 pages.)

Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners (The pilgrims thought about food all the time. They had to!) written by Lucille Recht Penner with illustrations selected by author. This book explores the customs, manners, and eating habits of the Pilgrims, from their first years surviving in the wilderness to their later years as successful farmers and hunters. Filled with details about the Pilgrims’ struggle for survival and how smelly, messy, and perilous it was, the book portrays their daily life, while specifically focusing on food. The book also highlights how Pilgrim survival depended on the help of native peoples. Line drawings and photographs accent the information, and with chapter titles like “Bugs for Dinner” and “We All Scream for Pudding,” readers’ curiosities will be piqued.  Pilgrim menus and recipes included. (Published by Perfection Learning, Iowa 1997. ISBN: 0-75-69410-91. 117 pages.)

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message adapted by Chief Jake Swamp and illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr. In this children’s version of the Iroquois Thanksgiving Address, readers can hear a message of gratitude that originated with the native peoples of New York and Canada. Traditionally spoken at the beginning of each day and at special ceremonies, the Thanksgiving Address expresses a reverence for nature and recognizes the unity among all living creatures. The message stretches the idea that there isn’t just one day of the year for giving thanks, but sees every day as an opportunity for thanksgiving. The message is also written out in the Mohawk language. Bold, color-block paintings provide a vibrant landscape for reading. (Published by Lee & Low Books, New York, 1995. ISBN: 1-88-00001-56. 24 pages.)

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, written by Laurie Halse Anderson and illustrated by Matt Faulkner, is told in an easy conversational style and illustrated with lush drawings full of detail and historic relevance.  The book introduces a little known heroine, Sarah Hale, (who is also responsible for penning “Mary Had A Little Lamb”), and her crusade to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Noticing how Thanksgiving was losing its importance in American traditions, Hale spent 38 years writing magazine articles and petitioning four different presidents until her perseverance and pen power finally won out. President Lincoln was persuaded by her argument that a national holiday would re-unite the union, and in 1863 he made it official. ”A Feast of Facts” outlines more information about Thanksgiving, Sarah Hale, and 1863 in history. (Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2002. ISBN: 0-68-98478-74. 40 pages.)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

10 New Picture Books for Halloween

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

10 New Picture Books for Halloween

Halloween is just days away. In our home there is a flurry of costume making and pumpkin carving and spider webbing as we countdown to the spookiest day of the year. And each evening, as the jack-o-lanterns glow in the dark, we take out the Halloween stories. This year, we’ve added a few new books to our nightly line-up.  Here are ten recently published picture books that prickle the spine, rattle the funny bone and charm the candy right into our hands!

Halloween Forest written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by John Shelley. A cloaked child wanders into a forest of bones on Halloween, but is not scared by the spooky skeletal creatures. Instead the fearless traveler cries out to chase the creatures away and reveals a skeleton beneath the cloak. The scary becomes friendly and treats await to be sacked. (Holiday House, New York, 2012.  ISBN 978-0-82342-324-8)

Vampirina Ballerina written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. A young vampire has some challenges to overcome as she practices ballet. From frightening her classmates and not being able to see her reflection in the mirror to dealing with stage fright on the night of her big debut. (Disney Hyperion, New York, 2012.  ISBN 978-1-42315-753-3

Sounds Spooky written by Christopher Cheng and illustrated by Sarah Davis. An old abandoned house is full of spooky sounds. But what are those new sounds? Is the house really empty? Lots of onomatopoeia and chant-like rhythm make for a good read aloud. The detailed pictures, created from photography, illustration, and computer wizardry, feature a model house made from cardboard and plaster and characters made from plasticene. (Random House Australia, 2012. ISBN 978-1-86471-879-9)

Trick or Treat written and illustrated by Leo Landry. When the ghost in the empty house at the end of the street throws a Halloween party, two invitations get mixed-up. When the unexpected guests arrive, there are both tricks and treats. A non-scary Halloween story about generosity and friendship. (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2012.  ISBN 978-0-54724-969-8)

A Halloween Treat written and illustrated by Edward Gorey. A back-to-back book featuring unpublished Gorey material. The first half is a short vignette about a trick or treat adventure. The other half is a wordless collection of Gorey ghosts. Charming, with a bit of spook and classic Gorey pen and ink. (Published by Bloomsbury, New York, 2012.  ISBN 978-1-60819-616-6)

Into the Pumpkin written and illustrated by Linda Franklin. In this beautifully illustrated book, readers journey inside a pumpkin to see how witches, bats, ravens, scarecrows, spiders, ghosts and other characters prepare to celebrate Halloween. (Schiffer Publishers, Atglen, PA, 2012. ISBN 978-0-76434-183-0)

Creepy Carrots! written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown. A parable about a rabbit who is always after carrots, until one day paranoia slinks in, and it seems as if the carrots are after him. The right amount of creep factor for a picture book about veggies, heightened by a palette of gray and orange. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2012.  ISBN 978-1-44240-297-3)

That One Spooky Night written by Dan Bar-el and illustrated by David Huyck. Three strange stories about one spooky night, when a broom searches for a witch and mermaids swim in the bathtub and a house party goes batty. Drawn in a comic book/graphic novel style, this 80-page book will appeal to older readers. (Kids Can Press, Toronto, 2012.  ISBN 978-1-55453-751-8)

Frankenstein by Ludworst Bemonster (written by Rick Walton and illustrated by Nathan Hale) is a parody of Ludwig Bemelmans’ classic story Madeleine. Of all the little monsters that live in the castle with spines, the ugliest one is Frankenstein. He can frighten anyone, until he loses his head. A monstrously funny twist on an old classic. (Feiwel & Friends of Macmillan, New York, 2012.  ISBN 978-0-31255-366-1)

The Monsters’ Monster written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. Three little monsters who all think they are the biggest and baddest monster, decide to build the biggest, baddest monster of all. But their creation turns out to be very different from what they imagined. A monster story with huge heart. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, New York, 2012.  ISBN 978-0-31604-547-6)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

Arthurian Legends and Gold Dubloons at Norman Rockwell Museum

World of Adventure with Howard Pyle
Family Festival Day at Norman Rockwell Museum
Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Howard Pyle (1853-1911) was one of America’s most popular illustrators and storytellers during a period of explosive growth in the publishing industry. A celebrity in his lifetime, Pyle’s widely circulated images of pirates, knights, and historical figures were featured in dozens of publications and were admired by such artists and authors as  Mark Twain and Norman Rockwell.

Explore history, as depicted in artist Howard Pyle’s illustrations, at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA!  The museum’s newest exhibit features nearly 80 of Pyle’s works, created between 1876 and 1910, the subjects of which include Arthurian England, heroes of the American Revolution, and the fate of Scottish so-called pirate Captain Kidd.

On Saturday, August 4th the museum will present World of Adventure: Arthurian Legends and Gold Dubloons, a family festival day, from 12noon-4pm. Along with opportunities to explore the museum’s galleries and view Pyle’s work, there will be scavenger hunts, performances, art making, and more! The 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry will be sharing a replica of a Civil War encampment, where families can meet soldiers and learn about wartime camp life.  The band Ampersand will perform music from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and kids can meet all sorts of soldiers, pirates, and knights!

For older kids (and parents), the museum will be screening, “Howard Pyle and the Illustrated Story,” a documentary film that follows Pyle’s work through generations of media.  Check out the trailer which gives a glimpse of Howard Pyle’s talents as illustrator, author, and mentor:

World of Adventure: Arthurian Legends and Gold Dubloons, presented in conjunction with the Museum’s current exhibition, “Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered,” takes place from 12noon-4pm on Saturday, August 4th – visit to learn about the art of illustration, American history, and legends of knights, dragons, and pirates!  Find out more about the Norman Rockwell Museum at www.nrm.org.

[Image credit: We Started to Run back to the Raft for Our Lives, 1902 Howard Pyle (1853-1911) Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 16 1/4 inches Delaware Art Museum, Museum Purchase, 1912]

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