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Blog – Posted on Thursday, Nov 21

The 35 Best Thanksgiving Books to Read with Kids Over the Holidays

Thanksgiving might play second fiddle to Christmas when it comes to seasonal music and festive decor, but it’s one of our favorite holidays. Whether you’re chowing down on a traditional turkey-and-cranberry dinner, or digging into an unconventional feast of potstickers, tamales, or lemongrass chicken, there’s no wrong way to celebrate — as long as do it with loved ones!

Your child might already be excited to spend the day with their favorite cousins or sneak an extra slice of sweet potato pie. But there’s another way to get them into the spirit of the season: with a delectable, Thanksgiving-themed read. It doesn’t matter if your little one is already picking their way through easy readers, or just babbled “Dada” for the first time last week. Either way, we’ve got the perfect book to capture their imagination. From gorgeously illustrated primers on Native American history to silly, quirky-as-a-turkey nursery rhymes, there’s something here for everyone.

Without further ado, here are the 35 best Thanksgiving books to read with your child, organized by theme. Trust us: these are stories you can both be thankful for!


HEARTWARMING TALES

1. The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Tammie Lyon 

Best for: Ages 3-5

In this adorable homage to The Night Before Christmas, a family gets ready to host a scrumptious holiday feast. There are relatives to greet, a parade to watch, and three kinds of pie to eat. Written in rhymes that perfectly echo the Yuletide classic, The Night Before Thanksgiving is a lyrical treat for budding poetry buffs.

2. Thanksgiving for Emily Ann by Teresa Johnson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Best for: Ages 3-5

Emily Ann isn’t the biggest fan of Thanksgiving. She’s saddled with a bunch of extra chores, and everyone’s too busy prepping dinner to spend any time with her. It’s the perfect recipe for feeling lonely and sad — can anyone blame her for acting out a little? Luckily, Thanksgiving for Emily Ann turns out much better than she could have hoped. Looks like her family didn’t forget about her after all!

3. Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman 

Best for: Ages 3-8

Bear is nothing if not grateful for his friends. What better way to show them his appreciation than with a dinner party? With plans for a feast in full swing, the other animals start dropping by, carrying cakes, pies, and other goodies to share. There’s just one problem: Bear forgot to make any food! Chapman’s lively illustrations bring this story of friendship, gratitude, and social improvisation to Disney-worthy life, making Bear Says Thanks a visual delight.

4. Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Katherine Mitter

Best for: Ages 4-8 

An oven-roasted turkey might be classic holiday fare, but it’s not the only way to enjoy a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner. That’s what Tuyet, who’s Vietnamese-American, finds out over the course of this charming book on family and diversity. At first, she can’t help but worry what her friends will think about her having, as the title puts it, Duck on Turkey Day. But they show her that the important thing isn’t what you have on your Thanksgiving table — it’s who you have sitting around it. 

5. The Firefighter’s Thanksgiving by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Terry Widener 

Best for: Ages 4-8

Every Thanksgiving, the firefighters of Station 1 tuck into a big holiday feast. This year, dinner prep falls to Lou, but he can’t quite seem to finish the cooking — he keeps getting called away to put out fires! Luckily, the grateful community gives Lou and his fellow firefighters something better than Lou’s half-peeled potatoes to chow down on. The Firefighters’ Thanksgiving is an inspiring tale of selflessness and sacrifice —  one that will prompt your child to reflect on everything they have to be thankful for.

6. Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

Best for: Ages 4-8

When Miguel’s dad sends him a turkey to fatten up for Thanksgiving, the young Puerto Rican boy can’t help himself: he gets just a little attached to their dinner-to-be. Can the neighbors in his lively New York borough help him save his feathery new friend? Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey is a gently funny tale of community, family, and unexpected friendship. There are even Spanish words woven into the text, making for a reading experience that educates as well as entertains.

7. Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jill McElmurry 

Best for: Ages 4-8 

Thanksgiving dinner turns out best when everyone has a job to do: from Daddy lighting the fire to Sister kneading the dough. In Sharing the Bread, an early 20th-century family comes together to cook — and enjoy — a delicious holiday feast. Miller’s singsong rhymes make for delightful reading, while McElmurry’s paper doll-like illustrations charm with their nostalgic details.

8. Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin, illustrated by Harry Devlin 

Best for: Ages 5-8

This classic from the ’70s comes with a recipe for cranberry bread in the back. It’s Grandma’s signature dish — the one she delights in making every Thanksgiving. This year, she’s asked Maggie to invite someone “poor or lonely” over for dinner, so they can taste her delicious baking. But what happens when Grandma doesn’t approve of Maggie’s choice of guest — and when her secret recipe goes missing? Cranberry Thanksgiving is a rare and scrumptious delight: a cozy mystery in picture book form. Devlin’s tasty yarn will have you craving some cranberry bread of your own by the time the case of the missing recipe is cracked. Time to make use of Grandma’s recipe!

9. Rivka’s First Thanksgiving by Elsa Okon Rael, illustrated by Maryann Kovalski 

Best for: Ages 5-9

Set in early 20th-century New York, Rivka’s First Thanksgiving combines warm, whimsical drawings with a sweet, dialogue-driven story perfect for reading aloud. It even comes with a glossary of Yiddish words that appear in the text. Rivka’s excited for her first Thanksgiving, but her family isn’t quite getting with the program — they’re Jewish immigrants from Poland, and her grandmother, or Bubbeh, can’t seem to figure out what Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock have to do with them. Luckily, Rivka’s ready to convince her that Thanksgiving is for everyone. 

10. Ankle Soup: A Thanksgiving Story by Maureen Sullivan 

Best for: Ages 6-9

On Thanksgiving, Carlos the French bulldog finds himself wandering a crowded Grand Central Station with his owner. He’s not sure what her game plan is — or why everyone seems to be in such a hurry. But by the end of the book, Carlos has learned to be grateful for all the beautiful chaos in his world. Told in lively rhyme accompanied by wildly colorful illustrations, Ankle Soup is sure to charm. But watch out — you just might find your child begging for a lovable Frenchie like Carlos!

11. An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott 

Best for: Ages 8-12

A holiday tale from the celebrated author of Little Women, this lavishly illustrated book — originally published as a short story — spotlights a family as warm and memorable as the Marches. For the Bassetts, this Thanksgiving is unlike any other: with their mother called away to help their ailing grandmother, the kids have been put in charge of the whole holiday feast. Are they up to the challenge? Written in the 1860s, An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving offers a charming glimpse of 19th-century life, made all the more vivid by Bernardin’s illustrations. 


BOOKS FOR BUDDING HISTORY BUFFS

12. Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet 

Best for: Ages 4-8

We’ve all seen the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — the army of towering floats snaking through New York City is as much of a holiday icon as a plump turkey with cranberry sauce. But how exactly did this tradition get started? Balloons Over Broadway tells the true story of Tony Sarg, a genius puppeteer who approached life with an artist’s heart and an engineer’s mind — and whose brilliance gave us an enduring Thanksgiving tradition. Sweet’s distinctive, collage-style illustrations make this a picture book unlike any other. It’s sure to delight adult art lovers as much as it enchants young readers.

13. Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Greg Shed 

Best for: Ages 5-9

This exhaustively researched book gives a Native American perspective on the famed First Thanksgiving. Instead of zeroing in on the Pilgrims’ side of the story, Squanto’s Journey stars, well, Squanto: a Patuxet man who’s already survived a kidnapping and a forced journey to Spain by the time the Mayflower finds its way to Plymouth Rock. Written in first person, Bruchac’s elegant — yet age-appropriate — prose combines with Shed’s moving, light-drenched illustrations to create a modern classic.

14. Milly and the Macy’s Parade by Shana Corey, illustrated by Brett Hilquist 

Best for: Ages 6-9 

This heartwarming story takes us back to 1924, the year of the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. At its center is Milly, a young immigrant eager to combine the traditions of her native Poland with some American-style holiday cheer. Can her dad’s boss, the powerful Mr. Macy, help her out? Milly and the Macy’s Parade brings us both the warm fuzzies suitable to the season, and a heavy dose of historical flair. Gorgeously detailed illustrations by Brett Helquist— Lemony Snicket’s longtime collaborator — bring Corey’s charming story to life. 

15. Nickommoh! A Thanksgiving Celebration by Jackie French Koller, illustrated by Marcia Sewell 

Best for: Ages 7-9

This book takes us back to a time before the Mayflower, when the Narrangasett people native to Rhode Island celebrated the harvest with lavish festivals of thanksgiving called Nickommoh. Koller’s text provides an engaging history lesson rendered in rhythmic prose. It’s perfectly complemented by Sewell’s elegant and expressive art, set apart by their unique scratchboard style. Chances are, you’ll find yourself learning as much from Nickommoh! as your little one.

16. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, illustrated by Cotton Coulson 

Best for: Ages 8-12

Published by National Geographic, this unique book takes a different approach than most in attempting to revisit the first Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective. Instead of Disney-worthy illustrations, 1621 delights the eyes with photo essays, each painstakingly reconstructing the settlement where 52 English colonists sat down with 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe. As visually arresting as it is educational, it’s the perfect read for a budding history buff.


MESSAGES OF GRATITUDE

17. Give Thanks for Each Day by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Robert McPhillips 

Best for: Ages 3-5

Give Thanks for Each Day is the perfect Thanksgiving bedtime story. Metzger’s soothing rhythms are sure to lull your little one to sleep, while McPhillips’ soft-hued, cute-as-a-button illustrations fill their dreams with adorable woodland critters, from dancing fawns to cuddly bears. Each of them is grateful for every day they get to spend on this beautiful planet, and your little one will be too.

18. Thankful by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Archie Preston 

Best for: Ages 3-5 

This isn’t, strictly speaking, a holiday book: you won’t find any pilgrims or turkeys here. Still, Spinelli’s heartwarming rhymes encourage young readers to be grateful for all the love in their life, making it a great Thanksgiving read. Meanwhile, Preston's illustrations, with their delicate whimsy, round out this story, keep Thankful relevant year-round."

19. The Thankful Book by Todd Parr

Best for: Ages 3-6 

New York Times bestselling author Todd Parr has been hailed as the next Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss. In The Thankful Book, he brings young readers into a world of lyrical gratitude and riotous color. His bold, cheerful art, with its primary hues, carry all the infectious energy of a crayon’s masterpiece displayed on a fridge. Your little one will feel right at home in his vibrantly drawn world. Meanwhile, Parr’s message reminds them to be thankful for everyday blessings, from the joy of bubble baths to the wonder of tracking your shadow as it stretches in the sunlight. 

20. Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes, illustrated by Doris Barrette 

Best for: Ages 4-8 

Thanks for Thanksgiving is full of lively, beautifully composed illustrations that bring the cozy conviviality of the season to life: think fluttering autumn leaves, russet-streaked lawns, and a family table piled high with fresh-baked bread. Barrett’s illustrations steal the show, but Markes’ text is full of warmth and whimsy too — perfect for reading out loud as the nights get longer and colder.

21. Thanksgiving Graces by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by David Wenzel

Best for: Ages 5-8

This heartwarming holiday tale is the perfect reflection on the magic of sharing and caring: think of it as the Thanksgiving answer to Stone Soup. When an unending stream of friends and family turn up uninvited to dinner, the little boy at the center of Thanksgiving Graces can’t help but worry these party crashers will spoil the holiday feast. Can there really be enough food for everyone? Luckily, Grandma’s there to remind him of the true spirit of Thanksgiving: “The more you love and care, the more there always seems to be.”

22. Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Jake Swamp 

Best for: Ages 5-11

Written by the late Chief Jake Swamp, a much-beloved leader of the Mohawk Wolf Clan, Giving Thanks introduces young readers to a vibrant Native American tradition. Called the Thanksgiving Address, this traditional prayer is still used in Iroquois ceremonies today. This particular ritual might not have anything to do with Turkey Day, but its message of gratitude is perfect for the spirit of the season.


HOLIDAY HUMOR AND SEASONAL SILLINESS

23. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey! by Lucille Colandro, illustrated by Jared D. Lee

Best for: Ages 4-6

Remember the old lady who swallowed a fly? Well, it looks like she’s getting more ambitious this Thanksgiving. Turkeys, after all, are a lot harder to down in one gulp, and she doesn’t stop there: the old lady manages to gobble up a boat and a horn of plenty too! There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey isn’t the kind of holiday book to impart valuable historical — or moral — lessons. But it’s disarmingly quirky, and a boatload of fun!

24. A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Diane de Groat 

Best for: Ages 4-7

All Mr. and Mrs. Goose want is to have Turkey for dinner — not as an entree, as a guest! Too bad he doesn’t know it, making him respond to their heartfelt invitation with panic instead of anticipation. A charming tale of friendship and slight misunderstandings, A Turkey for Thanksgiving will have your child laughing out loud — and then wishing he, too, could drop by the Mooses’ for a nice meal. 

25. One Is a Feast for Mouse: A Thanksgiving Tale by Judy Cox, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler 

Best for: Ages 4-8

Thanksgiving dinner might be over, but Mouse’s celebrations are about to start. With all the leftover turkey and pumpkin pie crumbs calling his name, he crawls out of his hidey-hole to assemble a feast. Really, a single pea should be enough. But how’s he supposed to say no to all the cranberry and mashed potatoes left out on the table? One Is a Feast for a Mouse is a gently funny tale with gorgeous illustrations, starring one of the cutest little scavengers you’ll ever see.

26. The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing 

Best for: Ages 5-8

Dreading another boring Thanksgiving at Grandma’s, surrounded by relatives they don’t even know, cousins Gavin and Rhonda form an alliance. They’re going to get out of the kids’ room and into the backyard, where the swing-set is calling their names. With spoiled dogs and cheek-pinching aunts standing in their way, can they pull off The Great Thanksgiving Escape?


ABC's AND 1-2-3'S

27. Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon 

Best for: Ages 2-5 

The perfect Thanksgiving treat for toddlers just learning to count, Five Silly Turkeys is a frolicsome delight, ideal for reading out loud. Shaped just like one of the silly turkeys it stars, the book boasts sturdy cardboard pages and shiny, crinkly “feather” tabs, making it a joy for playtime as well as story time. 

28. Many Nations: An Alphabet of Native America by Joseph Bruchac

Best for: Ages 4-9

Another illuminating classic by the author of Squanto’s Journey, this book combines inviting illustrations with top-notch educational content, all appropriate for young readers. Many Nations spotlights the diversity of the Native American experience in a way that’s perfect for the Thanksgiving holidays. And, as an alphabet book, it’s also a colorful, engaging way to teach fledgling readers their ABC’s.


CELEBRATING WITH CLASSIC CHARACTERS

29. Llama Llama Gives Thanks by Anna Dewdney

Best for: Ages 2-5

This playful board book is the perfect way to introduce toddlers to the spirit of Thanksgiving. Dewdney’s rhymes offer simplicity and charm to rival Mother Goose, and Llama Llama’s enthusiasm for friends, family, and food is nothing short of infectious. No wonder he’s found himself at the center of a board book franchise spanning 44 titles! Llama Llama Gives Thanks is the ideal, autumnal intro to one of kid lit’s most beloved icons.

30. Franklin’s Thanksgiving by Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Brenda Clark 

Best for: Ages 3-8

Come celebrate the season with everyone’s favorite baseball-capped turtle! In Franklin’s Thanksgiving, our hard-shelled hero worries about how his favorite holiday is going to go. He loves celebrating with Grandma and Grandpa, but this year, they’re spending Thanksgiving abroad. As much as he’ll miss them, Franklin decides it’s the perfect chance to invite two more diners to the table. But will there be enough food for everyone when his parents have some surprise guests of their own? 

31. Arthur’s Thanksgiving by Marc Brown 

Best for: Ages 4-8 

Everyone’s favorite aardvark has spent the past 40 years in the third grade, but we’re not sick of his wholesome, hilarious adventures yet! In Arthur’s Thanksgiving, he deals with the pressures of directing the school’s holiday play: everyone wants to be the star, and no one wants to get stuck as the turkey. Can his friendships survive his new theatrical responsibilities? 

32. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving by Daphne Pendergrass 

Best for: Ages 4-8

What could be better than celebrating Thanksgiving with the beloved Peanuts gang? Charlie Brown can't even heat up his own cereal in the morning, but when Peppermint Patty invites herself and a bunch of guests over for dinner, he finds himself preparing a whole Thanksgiving Feast! Luckily, his friends have his back — even his trusty beagle, Snoopy, is ready to pitch in. Can enthusiastic teamwork make up for, well, not actually knowing how to cook? Either way, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving promises to be unforgettable.

33. Clifford’s Puppy Days: Giving Thanks by Sarah Fisch, illustrated by Bob Roper 

Best for: Ages 4-8 

Before the iconic Big Red Dog grew to the size of a small cabin, he was tiny enough to fit inside a cornucopia: no bigger, really, than a cob of corn. Join Clifford the Small Red Puppy during his salad days as he tries his best to lend a paw to the perfect Thanksgiving feast. Giving Thanks is the perfect, pumpkin-spiced introduction to one of literature’s most beloved pups. 

34. Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynn Sweat 

Best for: Ages 5-8

A cheerful maid with a can-do attitude and a hilarious tendency to misinterpret orders, Amelia Bedelia has been delighting readers with her mishaps since the ‘80s. In Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey, she — and her penchant for literalism — takes on the task of organizing the school Thanksgiving pageant. Too bad she thinks the dressing room is for turkey condiments, and “break a leg” is an actual order! Can the cast members — and Amelia Bedelia — manage to stay in one piece?

35. Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff) by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brukus  

Best for: Ages 6-9

Called the world’s funniest first grader, Junie B. Jones is a star — she’s been turning story-loving children into lifelong readers since long before Harry Potter got his scar. In Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff), the rambunctious six-year-old tackles a task that turns out to be just a little harder than it sounds: being thankful. When her class competes in a contest to write the best “thankful list,” Junie B. finds herself drawing a blank. With pumpkin pie at stake, can she learn the true meaning of gratitude? 

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Can’t get enough heartwarming holiday tales? Check out our roundup of the best Christmas stories to keep the celebration going!

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