Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A serious stack of Thanksgiving picture books

Well, I've been invited to read at an elementary school thanksgiving assembly, and I am really excited about it. I'm a little worried, though, because I went and read there last year for St. Patrick's Day (a serious holiday if your name is Erin Fitzpatrick) and I had a killer costume. I chalked my hair green and had a green tutu and fancy socks and shamrock antennae and everything. So now I'm thinking I've got to match that performance, and how in the world does one dress for Thanksgiving??!! It's a lot of pressure!
Well, perhaps the first thing I needed to do, I decided, was pick a book. Maybe my costume would just come to me...I hit up the Multnomah County Library's website to see what kinds of Thanksgiving picture books they had, and I was surprised to find so many! I checked out ten that looked good to see what was what.


Beauty and the Beaks - A Turkey's Cautionary Tale by Mary Jane and Herm Auch was well written and funny, but some of the humor would be too likely to go over the heads of half the audience.  I loved the turkey and chickens in the story, all of whom were sculpted from clay an then had their (outlandishly fancy) costumes created and sewn by author Mary Jane.  Herm photographed them.  Their outfits alone are worth a look (Jim Henson would be impressed), and if you love punny books and books that play with language, this might be for you. But it wasn't going to be the one for teh assembly.

How Many Days to America, by Eve Bunting is a beautiful story about refugees, but the themes are more appropriate for older students, and probably it's a better book for a small group where there can be some discussion. Since my audience will be 500 or so K-5th graders, this is not the one either.

Thanksgiving Rules by Laurie Friedman and Teresa Murfin is a rhyming book with a nice little list of rules to follow for a successful Thanksgiving.  The rhyming makes for a nice read-aloud, although I thought it was a tiny bit forced at some points. It had possibility for my event, but I think this would be a better book to share with a class where they could them come back and explore each page and each rule in more depth. Maybe they could make up additional rules or illustrate another of the rules.  I am all in favor of rule 9, by the way.  Life is sweeter when you eat sweets!

Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit by Norman Bridwell. I actually kind of had high hopes for this one because I know where I could get my hands on a Clifford suit, but it just didn't do it for me.  It really didn't say "Thanksgiving" to me. And I need a really great story, not just a great costume. Too bad.

Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation by Diane Stanley and Holly Berry. Not so often I come across a time traveling picture book (perhaps I don't get out enough, though), but here's one.  Time traveling twins go with their grandmother back to the Plymouth Plantation in Northern Virginia. They learn a lot of history, clarify some misinformation they've had about the pilgrims and find out the difference between a harvest festival and a Day of Thanksgiving. This book is good, but the format and length don't lend it to being a good assembly read-aloud.

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dave Pilkey I was a little worried the kids would only be wearing underwear in this book, but luckily they were fully clothed. He did this book before he had that little brainstorm, apparently.  This is a cute rendition of Clement C. Moore's poem, but with kids on a field trip, a turkey farmer, and 8 turkeys named Ollie, Stanley, Larry, Mo, Wally, Beaver, Shemp and Groucho. A nod to the parental units reading the book there. The unsuspecting kids go to the farm on a field trip and meet the adorable, fluffy turkeys. And then they spot the axe and find out the truth about Thanksgiving.  Lo and behold, after the kids board the bus to leave, albeit slightly fatter than when they arrived, Farmer Mack cant find his turkeys.  Hmmmmm.  Not a bad choice, but the rhymes don't roll off the tongue as easily as I'd like them to so I'm thinking no on this one.

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin. did you kow that Oregon is one of the top cranberry producing states in the US?  Or that cranberries are one of the only fruits native to North America? Well I bet most of our students don't know those things either, even though we live right her in Oregon. For that matter, I doubt if many of them know what a fresh, not dried, cranberry looks like or tastes like. This is a great story for teaching children about the true meaning of holidays and giving and not judging people by their appearance.  It doesn't have quite the Thanksgiving oomph I was looking for, though.

Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting.  This Thanksgiving story has a completely different feel from Eve Bunting's other Thanksgiving book.  This one is all bright colors and cartoony animals, where the other one is all somber colors and people. Mrs. Moose has decided that she wants a turkey for Thanksgiving, just like everyone else.  So Mr. Moose, being a good husband, goes off to find her one.  But turkey doesn't want to come for Thanksgiving, having some idea of what might be in store for him there.  If he only knew what Mrs. Moose really had in store, he could have saved himself a lot of stress.  A fun book that might just make the cut.

Thanksgiving in the White House by Gary Hines and Alexandra Waller. You know how the president pardons a turkey every year, right?  But do you know why?  Well after reading this picture book about Tad Lincoln and his pet turkey Jack, you'll know the background. This one's on my shortlist, but I think it might just deal with too many different things in addition to Thanksgiving to make the final cut.

Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper.  Definitely my favorite cover of all the books I checked out, and the premise sounded like it held some possibility for a good story and some good costuming, but would it hold up beyond the summary?  It is a really cute story with great drawings, and a very clever turkey with some good imagination but my idea for the costuming seemed a little too involved.  I didn't think I could pull it off.  But I could just dress like a turkey and do a lot of gobbling...Hmmmm.  Still on the short list.

The last book I got a hold of was I Know and Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie,  by Alison Jackson.  I am a big fan of the There was an old Lady who Swallowed a Fly book by Simms Taback.  the one with the cutouts in the stomach.  Have you seen it?  If not, get thee to the library! I loved reading this book out loud with my nieces and nephews when they were all over visiting because THEY loved it. We'd all chime in on the final line, and they were 100% engaged. I hoped this book might be similar.  And it is!  I can invite audience participation on the last line, and I think the kids will love it.  I also have a pretty good idea for a costume which involves a stretchy, stretchy top that I can belt tightly at the waist and shove food items in until I'm full by the end, just like the old lady...We'll see.  I'm not 100% on it yet, but I'm thinking it's the front runner right now.

Do you have any other book suggestions? Costume ideas for me? If so, let me know in the comments.  and wish me luck!  Look for a picture next month.

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