Thanksgiving Kid’s Books: Giving Thanks – The 1621 Harvest Feast

Frustrated by over-simplified illustrations or cartoon figures in some kid’s history books? No fear of that with this Thanksgiving book! This one is a wonderful, authentic reproduction of the “First Thanksgiving Feast.”

Today’s feature book was produced with the cooperation of Plimoth Plantation – a wonderful living history and research center in Plymouth, Massachusetts. With wonderful photographs and both sides of the harvest feast story (Pilgrim and Native American), this book should be a favorite with kids…and adults.

giving thanksThe Book: Giving Thanks

Title: Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast

Author: Kate Waters

Photographer: Russ Kendall

Publication Date: 2001

ISBN: 0-439-24395-5

Link To Amazon: Giving Thanks

Why I Like This Book

Pictures. Worth a thousands words as I’ve said before. Nope, there weren’t cameras in 1621, and no illustrators on site. However, this book attempts to recreate what that first harvest through photographs and the story-text told from the perspectives of six-year-old Resolved White and fourteen-year-old Dancing Moccasins.

Wampanoag Settlement at Plimoth Plantation

Wampanoag Settlement at Plimoth Plantation

The text and photographs tear down a lot of myths about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, and it’s wonderful to know that it was created at Plimoth Plantation, an organization known for their research and superb historical interpretation.

The Historical Lessons In The Book

It’s important to have the proper historical perspective on the Wampanoag People. Unfortunately, a lot of children’s picture books show “Indians” at the Thanksgiving feast in war bonnets and other costumes that are unique to the American plains tribes. Giving Thanks does a fabulous job of introducing young readers to the Wampanoag tribe that the Pilgrims interacted with. There are details about their homes, religion, hunting, thoughts about the English settlers, and games.

Another historical lesson featured uniquely in this book: a multiple day feast. I’m afraid most of us imagine that 1621 Thanksgiving Feast as similar to our modern celebrations – company for a few hours, a huge meal, and sitting around talking until everyone goes home (to rest for the Black Friday sales.) In reality, the first Thanksgiving Feast lasted about three days!

Oh…and they didn’t have a frozen food section in Plymouth during 1621. Giving Thanks shows how food was collected and prepared. Dancing Moccasins goes deer hunting, and Resolved White helps his uncle and mother with various food preparation chores. An excellent reminder that the feast was fun…but also a lot of work.

Back Cover of Giving Thanks

Back Cover of Giving Thanks

Read, Read, Read…And Visit!

While it’s great to read lots of good history picture books with kids, don’t forget to make the past “come alive.” Last week we suggested ways to “play history.” Today, how about visiting a place where history really happened?

If you’re lucky enough to live close to Plymouth, Massachusetts, jump in the car and go see the monuments. Explore Plimoth Plantation’s museum and living history settlements. (And leave a comment to make me “happily jealous.)

What if you don’t live close to Plymouth? Try to plan a trip up there sometime. Don’t neglect the local history in your area. You never know if someone in your area is doing an educational program, cooking a traditional feast, or something else that would be interesting and make history “alive.”

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Looking for more books similar to Giving Thanks? There’s a whole list of other books by Kate Waters with Russ Kendall’s photography from Plimoth Plantation. Check out our booklist on the Colonial History Page.

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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