Paging Thanksgiving

Catholic Americans know that, while it’s nothing special on the Church’s liturgical calendar — although this year it coincides with the feasts of St. Columban and Blessed Miguel Pro, a martyr — the fourth Thursday in November is a yearly reminder that all we are and all we have is God’s gift to us. We must never take our blessings for granted.

As pumpkin-pie spices fill our kitchens and football teams skirmish on the field, even little ones know there is more to this special day than just a major meal. We remember our past. We celebrate with our family and our friends who are present to us. And we give thanks to God for all the gifts with which he has blessed us.

“The greatest gift that God has made to us,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a general-audience address last November, is “the gift of his Son, the gift of the Incarnation in which God gave himself to us and stays with us, in the Eucharist and in his Word, every day, to the very end of history.”

These “T-Day” books can help to cultivate the virtue of gratefulness in young hearts.


written by Dandi Daley Mackall

illustrated by Gene Barretta

Tommy Nelson, 2003

24 pages, $9.99

Available in bookstores

Little children set sail on an adventure never to be forgotten: “Mayflower ship — Dangerous trip! Waves that rock and winds that whip.” After arriving at Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrim families struggle to survive the harsh winter. Squanto, a Native American, comes to the rescue and teaches the Pilgrims how to hunt, fish and plant. In this surprisingly fast-paced board book, the writer captures the spirit of the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims “bow in prayer” for “blessings everywhere.” Comes with a read-along, speak-along and sing-along CD for even more fun and an extra helping of history. Ages 3 and older.


written by Nancy J. Skarmeas

illustrated by Stacy Venturi-Pickett

Ideals Publications, 1999

24 pages, $6.95

Available in bookstores

Connecting the past to the present, this chunky board book helps kids to learn that, just like the Pilgrims and American Indians, we too feast on turkey, corn and pumpkin. And, just like the celebrants of that first Thanksgiving, we also thank God for “our families, our food, and our home.” An attitude of gratitude is, in fact, the story of the Pilgrims presented here. They thank God for their safe journey to America, the freedom to worship in their new land, the new friends who help them and, finally, the special meal they share. Simple text and colorful illustrations. Ages 3 and older.


the woman who saved thanksgiving

written by Laurie Halse Anderson

illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002

40 pages, $6.99

Available in bookstores

While American Indians saved the Pilgrims from starving, Sarah Hale saved Thanksgiving — or, at least, the celebration as we now know it. George Washington proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November a “day of Thanksgiving and prayer.” Years passed. Memories faded. Some Americans celebrated it while many did not. Sarah Hale, a mom of five, editor of a woman’s magazine and composer of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” did what she knew best. She wrote. Pleading for a national day of thanks, she wrote letters to Presidents Taylor, Pierce and Buchanan — who said, No, No and No! Persistent Mrs. Hale jotted a note to President Lincoln. His reply: “Yes,” of course. The rest is history. Humorous illustrations. Ages 5 to 10.


written by Eileen Spinelli

illustrated by Joann Adinolfi

Henry Holt, 2003

32 pages, $15.95

Available in bookstores

Not all holidays go as planned. The narrator of this fun story compares the elegant Thanksgivings at her friend’s house with the quirky, not-so-perfect ones at her own: “Our smoke alarm is wailing. Our turkey burnt as toast. Dad spills the gravy down his shirt — a less-than-perfect host.” This book will bring a good laugh, while reminding readers that it’s thankfulness and being together that make for a perfect Thanksgiving. Ages 4 to 8.


written by Abby Levine

illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye

Albert Whitman, 2000

32 pages, $6.95

Available in bookstores

Max is especially excited about Thanksgiving this year. Why? Because he gets to pick out the turkey! All goes well until Mom slips. The turkey goes soaring through the air and straight into the fish tank. Is Thanksgiving ruined? No way. Being with loved ones can transform even a turkey-less holiday into the best Thanksgiving yet. Like the other books in this series, the story is told in a pattern akin to This Is the House That Jack Built. This rhythm and rhyme adds to the fun and will have readers chanting along with the storyline. Great illustrations. Ages 4 to 8.

GRATEFUL: a song of giving thanks

written by John Bucchino

illustrated by Anna-Liisa Hakkarainen

HarperCollins, 2003

40 pages, $6.99

Available in bookstores

The composer of this song, now a picture book, is “truly blessed and duly grateful” for simple things — a heart that can love, a mind that can think and a family of friends. He counts his gifts, rather than sheep, before falling asleep. Music and lyrics are included. A separate hardback edition comes with a CD. Ages 4 and older.


Written by Shelley Rotner and Sheila Kelly

Photographs by Shelley Rotner

Millbrook Press, 2000

24 pages, $5.95

Available in bookstores

What are you thankful for? In this book, children recount the many blessings for which they’re thankful — special people, places, pets and so much more. Vibrant photographs add a joyful element to this simple, straightforward text. Ages 3 to 8.


adapted from Italian by Mary Elizabeth Tebo, FSP

illustrated by Lorella Flamini

Pauline, 2006

40 pages, $11.95

To order: (800) 836-9723

A baby mouse in fuzzy slippers holds his blue blankie. Bunny friends share soup and a loaf of bread. A ladybug sleeps on her flower petal bed. These are just a few of the creatures preschoolers will encounter in this first prayer book. Thanking God for both the ordinary (“sunny picnic days” and “splashy puddle days”) and the divine (“Your love shines down on everyone in the world. Thank you, dear God, thank you!”), these animal friends inspire young readers to consider the gift and the giver. More than that, the heartfelt prayers they voice remind children that every day can be a day of Thanksgiving. Sturdy, large board book. Ages 1 to 3.

Patricia A. Crawford writes from Steubenville, Ohio.

Kerry Crawford writes

from Pittsburgh.