Homemade egg noodles. Cranberry jello with chopped fruit, served in a crystal bowl. Crescent yeast rolls, perfect for sandwiches made with leftover turkey. The sights and smells of the foods from my childhood have become synonymous with the Thanksgiving holiday. What we grow to know and love when we’re young, we carry into adulthood. Family traditions can be powerful vehicles of grace.
As you’re planning your Thanksgiving festivities, consider adding a select book or two to your family’s traditions. Here are a few which are enjoyed by our family:
Miss Stickley marched up to the front of the room. She turned and faced the class. “Listen to me, all of you. Molly’s mother is a pilgrim. She came here, just like the Pilgrims long ago, so she could worship God in her own way, in peace and in freedom.”
Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
Molly’s family immigrated from Russia to America. Her third grade classmates are perplexed by this Jewish girl who has never heard of Thanksgiving. As Molly attempts to complete an assignment – creating a Pilgrim clothespin doll – her classmates gain a new understanding of what it means to be a “pilgrim.” The first time I read Molly’s Pilgrim to my children, it immediately brought to mind our friends in the local refugee community. This short picture book inspires and models what it looks like to know and love our neighbor.
After the storm, the sea grew calmer, and the Pilgrims gave thanks to God. A baby was born to the Hopkins family. A baby brother for Giles, Constance, and Damaris! What was the new baby to be called? Some of the children on the ship had names like Love, Resolved, Humility, and Remember. There seemed to be only one name for a child born on the ocean. And so the Hopkins baby was called Oceanus.
The Thanksgiving Story follows the Hopkins family from their journey on the Mayflower through settling in the new land, and eventually, to celebrating the first Thanksgiving. Helen Sewell won the 1955 Caldecott Honor for the book’s vibrant and compelling illustrations. The Columbus Story, The Fourth of July Story, The Courage of Sarah Noble, and The Bears on Hemlock Mountain (all written by Dagliesh) are worthy of purchase for your home library.
William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth, then spoke. “It’s like the story of Joseph from our sacred Scriptures,” he said. “Like you, Joseph was also taken fro his home and sold as a slave. But God had a plan for him. Through Joseph, God was able to save many people from starving. What man had intended for evil, God intended for good.” Then Bradford smiled at Squanto. “Perhaps God has sent you to be our Joseph,” he said.
In a sea of books that can reduce the Thanksgiving story down to a civics lesson, I’m grateful for this retelling of God’s sovereignty and provision in the midst of extreme hardship. The historical account of Squanto is amazing. At its core is the God who is often unpredictable, yet always faithful.
About two weeks after Magda came to school, Thanksgiving Day was due. She had never heard of Thanksgiving Day, but since the story was all written out in her history book she soon found out what it meant. She thought it was perfectly lovely! She read the story of the Pilgrim fathers and their long hard trip across the ocean (she knew something about that trip) and their terrible first winter, and the kind Indian whose language they couldn’t understand, who taught them how to cultivate the fields, and then, – oh, it was poetry, just poetry – the setting aside a day forever and forever, every year, to be thankful that they could stay in America!
Although it was published in 1957, this is the new book in our home this Thanksgiving season. It’s a compilation of poems, plays, games, and short stories, including authors such as Carol Ryrie Brink (Caddie Woodlawn) and Dorothy Canfield Fischer (Understood Betsy). It’s Time for Thanksgiving is out of print, but you can find several good copies on ebay, Amazon, and addall.com. Somehow, I ended up with a new library-bound copy from Amazon for $15. Happy hunting.
What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving books?