Our Favorite Thanksgiving Living Books

These Thanksgiving and gratitude living books have been favorites around our house for years.

Some help explain the history of our Thanksgiving celebration, while others are just sweet stories with a Thanksgiving theme. And, yet others really have nothing to do with Thanksgiving, in particular, but focus on a spirit of gratitude that’s such an important character trait for our children to possess.

Your children will love these Thanksgiving living books!

At your local library, you’ll likely find at least a shelf or two full of Thanksgiving-themed books. Sadly, many of them aren’t worth your time because they’re twaddle.

What’s twaddle? The dictionary defines twaddle as “trivial or foolish speech or writing; nonsense.” I like to describe it as fluff that rarely has a full plot, rich language, or vivid characters.

Some children may enjoy twaddle – and in small amounts, there really is nothing wrong with it. However, books that are the opposite of twaddle have so much more potential to interest, intrigue, and gently instruct readers of all ages.

What is the opposite of twaddle? Living literature! These books have the ability to hold the attention of everyone in the room with interesting characters that take you right down the path of wherever the setting happens to be so that you almost feel as if you’re right there in the story. Yeah, they’re that good.

Many people think of chapter books when they think of living literature, but there are lots and lots of living picture books, too! They might not pack quite as much depth into their shorter text, but they certainly can be rich.

Additionally, living books can be fiction or nonfiction. Yes, even factual books have to potential to be considered “living” if they do more than just state the facts in a textbook-like fashion.

With the Thanksgiving season approaching, I thought I’d help you figure out which books on the library shelf are surefire living books. You’ll find a nice mix of fiction and nonfiction in this list.

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The Best Thanksgiving Living Books

Since Thanksgiving was originally celebrated as a friendly dinner between Native Americans and pilgrims, we like to read books about both in our home. Not all of the books in these categories are necessarily Thanksgiving-related, but they fit with the general November theme.

Native American Picture Books

And Still the Turtle Watched by Sheila MacGill-Callahan

Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Squanto’s Journey by Joseph Bruchac

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola

The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin

The Story of Jumping Mouse by John Steptoe

Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London

And Still the Turtle Watched (Rise and Shine)Hiawatha (Puffin Pied Piper)Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First ThanksgivingThe Girl Who Loved Wild HorsesThe Legend of the Indian PaintbrushThe Rough-Face GirlThe Story of Jumping MouseThirteen Moons on Turtle's Back: A Native American Year of Moons


If you’re considering a Native American unit study, you’ll want to check out the literature-based, project-based learning ideas I pulled together from our unit study!

Pilgrim Picture Books

A few of the books on this little lean slightly toward twaddle, but I included them anyway because they offer a good picture of the life of a pilgrim.

If You Sailed on the Mayflower by Ann McGovern

If You Were at the First Thanksgiving by Anne Kamma

N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims by Robert San Souci

On the Mayflower by Kate Waters

P is for Pilgrim by Carol Crane

Sarah Morton’s Day by Kate Waters

The First Thanksgiving by Jean Craighead George

The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh

Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness

Who’s that Stepping on Plymouth Rock? by Jean Fritz

You Wouldn’t Want to Sail on the Mayflower by Peter Cook

. . . If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620If You Were At The First ThanksgivingN.C. Wyeth's PilgrimsOn The MayflowerP Is for Pilgrim: A Thanksgiving Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Alphabets)Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl (Scholastic Bookshelf)The First Thanksgiving (Picture Puffin Books)The Pilgrims' First ThanksgivingThe Thanksgiving StoryThree Young PilgrimsWho's That Stepping on Plymouth Rock?You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Mayflower! (Revised Edition) (You Wouldn't Want to…: History of the World)


General Thanksgiving Picture Books

We also love to read books with a general Thanksgiving theme. These are all treasures!

A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin

Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving by Katherine Paterson

It’s Thanksgiving by Jack Prelutsky

Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Chid

Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday by Mike Allegra

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller

Thank you, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll

The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons

A Turkey for ThanksgivingCranberry Thanksgiving (Cranberryport)Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of ThanksgivingIt's Thanksgiving! (I Can Read Level 3)Over the River and Through the WoodSarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday (Av2 Fiction Readalong 2015)Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving StoryThank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved ThanksgivingThe Biggest Pumpkin EverThe Pumpkin Book


Gratitude Picture Books

Thankfulness and gratitude are important character traits for our children any time of the year. These sweet books will help you gently teach those qualities easily.

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

Elmore by Holly Hobbie

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau

Those Shoes by Noah Z. Jones

All the World (Classic Board Books)ElmoreLast Stop on Market StreetSylvester and the Magic PebbleThank You, Mr. FalkerThe Quiltmaker's GiftThose Shoes


I hope you enjoy lots of book goodness with your children this November!

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  1. I’ve got a picture book to add to the list…The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell.

  2. Thanks, Becky! I’m checking my library now…

  3. This is a good list. There is also a book called I’m Thankful Each Day by P K Hallinan. It’s great for teaching that we can be in a constant state of gratitude and not just at Thanksgiving. It’s hard to weed out twaddle at the library. I work at a small public library and I wish I could discard some of the “junk food books,” but companies send them out for free and since funding is so low (and often depended upon patron donations) I don’t see it getting any better 🙁

  4. Thanks for the book suggestion, Rachel! I’ve often thought I would love to work at a library in my life after homeschooling, but I KNOW I would have a hard time with all the twaddle that I wouldn’t be allowed to throw away. LOL

  5. “The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower” is a great one! My husband wouldn’t be here to day if he hadn’t been fished out of the Atlantic!


  6. This book looks great! Thanks for sharing, Rachel.

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