Thanksgiving Kid’s Books: “Pilgrim Cat”

This November, I thought we’d do something different for our theme of the month. I’ve rounded-up my four favorite picture books about the Pilgrims of Plymouth and will share the book and why it’s on our “top four” list. These are the books I’ve read to siblings, students at living history days, and young cousins on Thanksgiving Day. They’re a great investment to entertain and educate the youngsters in your life. (And who doesn’t love great artwork and short, memorable stories!)

If you’re looking for purely historical blog posts about the Pilgrims (AKA Separatists and Strangers) check-out our archive from 2015!

Let’s head to the picture book shelf and see what we can learn and enjoy from “kid’s books.”

Pilgrim CatPilgrim Cat: The Book

Title: Pilgrim Cat

Author: Carol Antoinette Peacock

Illustrator: Doris Ettlinger

Publication Date: 2004

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6533-9

Link To Amazon: Pilgrim Cat

Why I Like This Book

Who doesn’t love a good story about a fluffy animal or pet? Using a little Pilgrim girl and the friendly cat she befriends, this story shares many details about sailing to America and building Plymouth colony. It doesn’t shy away from the hardships the Pilgrims faced, but addresses them in a very-age appropriate way for little ones.

From the voyage of the Mayflower, through the first winter, meeting the Native Americans, and up to the First Thanksgiving, the book charts history through the eyes of a Faith and her “mouser”, Pounce. (Mouser was the Pilgrim’s word for cat!) The dialog and writing style hints at Olde English and incorporates some archaic words used by the Pilgrims without bogging down the story or confusing readers/listeners.

Goat at Plimoth Plantation Living History Village

Goat at Plimoth Plantation Living History Village

The illustrations are wonderful! It’s a delight to seeing a children’s picture book about the Pilgrim with characters wearing authentic, colorful clothing and showing the tasks that children helped with in the colony.

The best thing about the book (in my opinion) is addition of a pet. Most kids love animals, and using a cat to add interest to the story is a wonderful and unique writing angle. It’s also historically authentic…

The Historical Lessons In The Book

  1. The Pilgrims brought animals with them to the New World. Early colonial settlers didn’t really have “pets” in the way we think of pets today. But certainly they brought animals, cared for their animals, and children were probably friends with some of the furry critters. While we only know for certain about a couple dogs who came with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, it’s possible they might have brought goats and chickens. If there weren’t goats or chickens on the Mayflower, then they probably arrived in Plymouth later on a different ship. What about cats? Well, the Pilgrims wouldn’t have brought a cat as a pet. However, (as the book suggests) cats were fairly common on ships where they helped to control the rodent population. So, yes, it’s quite probably a cat could’ve crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower.
  2. Life wasn’t easy for kids. Pilgrim Cat emphasizes the difficulties and challenges the Pilgrims faced, and it makes sure readers understand that children struggled and survived too. I’m afraid we forget children in our history studies, preferring to gloss over their losses and triumphs because we live in an era when children live very sheltered lives.
  3. Notice the colorful clothing these interpreters are wearing.

    Notice the colorful clothing these interpreters are wearing.

    Colorful clothing. On of my biggest pet peeves with Thanksgiving/Pilgrim images is the wrong clothing. Unfortunately, we’ve been taught that the Pilgrims wore drab clothing – usually in the brown, gray, or black hues. Not true. Blues, greens, gold, reds, and other colors where prominent in English clothing in the era. Plimoth Plantation’s living history program has done a wonderful job re-created the clothing and helping to break the stereotypical image in their educational materials.

Read, Read, Read

So…get a copy of Pilgrim Cat and find a child who needs to hear a good story. (If you don’t have children or grandchildren of your own, try to find a niece, nephew, little cousin, or a friend’s child.) If you love history, you’ll want to share it with the next generation…and sometimes it’s as easy as reading a wonderful, historical picture book.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Do you have a favorite historical picture book to read-aloud to children?

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, living history enthusiast, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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