In Search of Thanksgiving Stories

For many people Thanksgiving has become a “drive through” holiday, sandwiched between two major events.

Halloween is second only to Christmas in the amount of decorating done, and the parties given. And for many people Christmas preparation begins months before December 25th.

Humble Thanksgiving has the Macy’s parade and a big dinner. I know of only one Thanksgiving song ā€“ The New England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving Day, which begins with the lines: “Over the river, and through the wood, To grandfather’s house we go…” I don’t know of anyone who sings it as part of their Thanksgiving traditions.

I wanted to bring some attention to the importance of Thanksgiving by listing numerous children’s classics that have Thanksgiving scenes ā€“ but I couldn’t think of many.

In “The Christmas Horses” chapter of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On the Banks of Plum Creek there are three paragraphs about Thanksgiving. The family ate a good dinner, then they ate three grains of parched corn to remember what the Pilgrims had to eat before the Indians brought them turkeys on the first Thanksgiving. (That’s a meaningful custom I’d like to continue if I could find a source to obtain three grains of corn to parch.) But since the chapter is named after Christmas horses, it’s no surprise that the family quickly begins thinking of another holiday.

In the first chapter of Helen Wells’ Cherry Ames Department Store Nurse the entire Ames family spend nine pages eating turkey, as parents and brother question Cherry about her new job. But that night Cherry flies back to New York City where she returns to work in the infirmary of a department store that’s newly decorated for Christmas.

Such is life. So often Thanksgiving day is immediately followed by Christmas preparation.

Since it wouldn’t be fair to name a post Thanksgiving Stories and not share any, I went looking for classic children’s stories that had important scenes sent in November. And glory be, I found a book of (mostly) Thanksgiving tales called Good Cheer Stories Every Child Should Know, published in 1915.

You can download it free of charge at:

When you’re at the book’s table of contents click on the page number for a particular story, and you’ll be taken to that page.

I can’t recommend every story in the collection. A few are rather preachy and silly, and there’s a Nathaniel Hawthorne story that’s the most judgmental piece I’ve ever read.

But Bert’s Thanksgiving reminds me of Horatio Alger’s best early novels, Beetle Ring’s Thanksgiving Mascot had a satisfying happy ending, and Thanksgiving at Todd’s Asylum had me smiling over the humor. Some stories are history lessons that tell of life hundreds of years ago, and The Story of Ruth and Naomi takes you back thousands of years, for it’s a retelling of a Bible story about poor people who are provided with needed food. And isn’t that what the first North American Thanksgiving was all about?

If you’d like to prepare for Thanksgiving by reading about young people from times past who went through difficult times but still felt grateful for what they had, than Good Cheer Stories Every Child Should Know should bring you reading pleasure.

You may then be in the mood to plan your holiday meal, which can be prepared as you sing The New England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving Day.

5 thoughts on “In Search of Thanksgiving Stories

  1. I’m always frustrated at finding good Thanksgiving reading. It’s even worse for adults. Every book about Thanksgiving is about cooking! Anything else I have that’s Thanksgiving is histories of the holiday (Applebaum’s book, for instance) and nostalgia (Ideals) Another good Thanksgiving children’s book is THE THANKSGIVING TREASURE by Gail Rock..


    • Linda,
      When I was thinking about why the children’s books have so little about Thanksgiving I decided that unless it’s a scene on an early-1800s farm where it literarily took days to prepare a holiday meal, there isn’t much about the holiday that moves the plot along. People sitting around saying why they are thankful works for a couple of paragraphs, and then something exciting has to happen.
      Most of the good stories I’ve found are about poor people struggling to prepare a meal that’s a little fancier that the usual plain fare. If you’re not poor you need to have a loved one recovering from a serious injury or some other major event to make being thankful interesting.


  2. Another Thanksgiving song is “We Gather Together (to Ask the Lord’s Blessing).” Interestingly, Catholics and Protestants have different words to the same tune.


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