As an adult, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. But, as the daughter of immigrants who were new to America, I never felt like we were doing it “right” as a child. Holidays and traditions, regardless of their most wholesome intents, sometimes have an exclusionary factor about them: Some part of the story is always left untold.
As kids, we learned the story of Thanksgiving from a very privileged perspective. Now, as adults, we’re learning that much of what we learned has not been the entire truth. There is not much we can do to change the things we were taught. However, what is within our grasp is how we approach these topics without our little ones. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
As a mother, this has become a driving force in my parenting. Now that I know better, I want to do better. And in many ways, this means relearning the things I thought I knew. So when I look for books for my kids for any and every occasion (seriously, cannot stop with the books), I try to consider the perspectives that might be missing from the conversation.
For Thanksgiving, we have adorable, fun stories about friendship and sharing and turkey. We have warm, comforting stories about gratefulness and giving thanks. And we have sobering, perspective-shifting stories about how people different from us think, feel and live. And though one of my favorite things is teaching my kids, what I love even more is learning right alongside them. Read on for 19 Thanksgiving books for kids that are both cute and culturally responsive.
Bright Baby: Happy Thanksgiving
This sturdy board book introduces simple Thanksgiving words with fun images—perfect for the tiniest readers.
Be Thankful, Pout-Pout Fish
Pout-Pout Fish is a toddler favorite, and this super cute story is just the right length for young readers.
Biscuit Is Thankful
Biscuit introduces the concept of being thankful in a way that is accessible for tiny tots.
Where Is Baby's Turkey?
Karen Katz's books are always a hit with babies, and this lift-the-flap one is sure to be no different.
Happy Thanksgiving, Curious George
George takes on all of the usual aspects of Thanksgiving, giving it the curious twist that only George can.
Llama Llama Gives Thanks
Llama Llama introduces Thanksgiving with short and simple rhyming text and focuses on being grateful.
Thankful combines charming rhymes and whimsical illustrations to convey the importance of being thankful for everyday blessings.
Thanksgiving in the Woods
Every year a family and their friends gather in the woods to celebrate Thanksgiving among the trees. Everyone brings something to share, and the day becomes a long celebration of family and friendship.
Balloons Over Broadway
This book tells the story of the puppeteer, Tony Sarg, who inspired the helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
The Very First Americans
Long before Columbus landed in America, hundreds of groups of people had already made their homes here. You may have heard of some of them—like the Sioux, Hopi, and Seminole. But where did they live? What did they eat? How did they have fun? And where are they today?
In November, the air grows cold, and the earth and its creatures prepare for winter. Animals seek food and shelter. And people gather together to celebrate their blessings with family and friends.
The Autumn Visitors
In this book, a bear family experiences the adventures of fall, including a county fair, Halloween, and Thanksgiving.
The Ugly Pumpkin
This charming tale about a pumpkin who doesn't quite fit in on Halloween will entice children and adults alike with its unexpected ending.
board book also available
Bear Says Thanks
The playful text and charming illustrations bring this celebration of family and friendship to life.
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message
Giving Thanks 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 is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations. It's a beautiful book written and illustrated by Indigenous peoples.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.
Duck for Turkey Day
It's almost Thanksgiving, and Tuyet is excited about the holiday and the vacation from school. There's just one problem: Her Vietnamese American family is having duck for Thanksgiving dinner—not turkey! Kids from all families with different traditions will enjoy this warm story about "the right way" to celebrate an American holiday.
The touching story tells how recent immigrant Molly leads her third-grade class to discover that it takes all kinds of pilgrims to make a Thanksgiving.
Gracias / Thanks
In a series of poetic sentences, a young multiracial boy tells about some of the everyday things for which he is thankful.
This article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for timeliness.