Subscribe to The Horn Book

Thanksgiving reading

There’s a lot to be grateful for on Thanksgiving: delicious food, relaxation, the Macy’s Day Parade, even football. Above all, we give thanks for time spent with loved ones. The books below (published in the last several years and recommended by The Horn Book Magazine) touch on all of these Thanksgiving-worthy themes. What are some of your favorite books to share at this time of year?

Balloons Over BroadwayMarionette maker Tony Sarg designed mechanical storybook figures for Macy’s window displays before inventing the giant balloon characters that would become the signature feature of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In Melissa Sweet’s biography Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, whimsical mixed-media collages, embellished with toys the author/illustrator made herself out of odds and ends, reinforce the theme that, for Sarg, work was play. An author’s note and source list are appended. (Houghton, 4–8 years)

Sophie loves her friend Bernice. They meet in the fall, play together, visit the library. Bernice is aging; it is clear that her life is nearing its end. Sophie is sad. But time plays its healing role, and by spring Sophie is receptive to the comforting notion that nature is cyclical. What saves this tale from being saccharine is a single, brilliant narrative stroke: Bernice is a squash. Anne Wilsdorf’s illustrations for Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller portray lumpy, personality-rich characters — including the much-loved Bernice. (Schwartz & Wade/Random, 4–8 years)

In Judy Cox’s One Is a Feast for Mouse: A Thanksgiving Tale, Mouse spies the remnants of a Thanksgiving feast. He starts by picking up one “teensy-tiny, toothsome, green pea,” but soon his pile grows. Jeffrey Ebbeler’s bright acrylic paintings from multiple perspectives show Mouse juggling an increasingly unwieldy mountain of food. Mouse drops most of his feast when Cat wakes up, but nonetheless remembers to “give thanks” for what he manages to salvage. (Holiday, 4–8 years)

Penny Colman’s nonfiction offering Thanksgiving: The True Story covers many aspects of the holiday’s roots, from Sarah Josepha Hale’s quest to make it a national holiday to the origins of Thanksgiving football games. Colman’s strength is sharing her research process with readers, starting with a survey designed to elicit questions about the holiday, and indicating the ways those responses led her to her own search for further information. (Ottaviano/Holt, 8–11 years)

The four thematic sections of Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving cover thanks for food, life, spirit, and community. Editor Katherine Paterson’s selection is catholic and spans the centuries, from the Bible to Julian of Norwich to Emily Dickinson to the Dalai Lama, along with much folk material (“Pueblo Blessing,” “Native American Proverb”), albeit unsourced. Pamela Dalton’s cut-paper silhouettes, occasionally embellished with watercolor, decorate the pages. Short autobiographical essays by Paterson introduce each section and give the volume a welcome personal touch. (Handprint/Chronicle, all ages)


Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.



  1. These look like lovely books! One of my favorite Thanksgiving-ish books is “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” (Katherine Paterson, Pamela Dalton). Besides utterly stunning paper cuts, it resonates with the spirit of thanksgiving in a timeless, classic way. I can’t wait to find your choices and try them out.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind