Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Squantos Journey102606130Squantos Journey:  The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Joseph Bruchac, author

Greg Shed, illustrator

Silver Whistle – Harcourt, Inc., Historical Fiction, 2000

Suitable for: Ages 6-12

Themes: Squanto, Wampanoag Indians, Pilgrims, Thanksgiving, Survival

Opening/Synopsis“My story is both strange and true.  I was born in the year the English call 1590.  My family were leaders of the Patuxet people and I, too, was raised to lead. But in 1614 I was taken to Spain against my will.  Now it is 1621 and I am again in my homeland.  My name is Squanto, I would like to tell you my tale.”   Squanto plays a key role in bringing peace between the Indians and the English settlers who arrived in Plymouth.  The settlers were not prepared for the harsh challenges they faced.  Squanto taught them ways of the living on the land so that they could plant crops, hunt, fish and prepare for the winter.  When the autumn arrived they celebrated the good harvest with a feast for all.   Squanto’s tribe worked with the settlers to help them survive.

Why I like this book:  The story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is known to children.  Author Joseph Bruchac tells the story from the Native American perspective in first person.  Squanto ( Tisquantum) was captured by the British, taken to Spain as a slave where he escaped and found his way back home to New England.  He was the first Native American Indian to live in the European and Indian world.  The author’s research is thorough and he spent many years among the Native American tribe.  He wrote this fascinating  and inspiring account of how Squanto taught the Pilgrims to survive the harsh New World.  Greg Shed’s research took him to Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA, where he studied the landscape, and buildings and settlement so he could capture the authenticity in his bold and beautiful illustrations.

Resources: There is an informative Author’s Note at the end.  The Plimoth Plantation has a wonderful section “Just for Kids,” where children can learn to talk like a Pilgrim, take a virtual  Thanksgiving field trip sponsored by Scholastic, and work with materials for reports and coloring pages.  Click here to view a short video on the Plimoth Plantation produced by the History Channel.

Susanna Hill’s Thanksgiving Contest

They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast.  The wind howled.  The tree creaked.

Papa stockpiled wood inside the burrow.  He stomped his feet and bolted the door.

Papa looked at his shivering brood of three.  “I know you are disappointed, but we are safer in our burrow.”

“What about Grandma’s acorn pie, ” asked Sammy.  His pudgy cheeks quivered and is large glossy eyes brimmed with tears.

“We have plenty of nuts, berries, fruit, seeds and grains to feast upon,” said Mama.  “Why don’t you do your chores.  Be thankful that we’re together.”

Sammy, Teddy and Rose tidied up their nests and swept the burrow.  Sammy wondered what they could do to make Thanksgiving special.

Then Sammy spied a twig resting against the wall inside the burrow.

“Hey Teddy and Rose, I have an idea,” said Sammy.  The three siblings huddled and whispered.  Rose jumped up and down.   The rest of the morning they worked in a corner of the burrow on their idea.

Mama worked all morning preparing their feast.  Papa tended to the fire so that the burrow remained warm.

Sammy carefully placed their centerpiece on the table.

“It’s beautiful!”  Mama gasped.

“It’s our thankful tree,” beamed Sammy.  Tied to the branches were acorns, pine cones, and dried leaves bearing the names, Mama, Papa, Grandma, Sammy, Teddy and Rose.

They heard a rustle in the tunnel and a voice called out,  “Acorn pie anyone?”

“Grandma,”  they chirped.  “We’re thankful you’re here!”

Susanna Leonard Hill is sponsoring a Thanksgiving Writing Contest.  Here are the rules: Post your 250 (or fewer) word kids’ Thanksgiving story, beginning with “They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast…” and add your link to the link list.  The last day to submit is November 24th!  Add your own entry at http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2011/11/oh-excitement-thanksgiving-contest.html.

 

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

Laurie Halse Anderson, Author

Matt Faulkner, Illustrator

Aladdin Paperbacks, 2005, Historical Fiction

Suitable for: Ages 5-10

Synopsis:  “You think you know everything about Thanksgiving, don’t you?…How the Native Americans saved the Pilgrims from starving…How the Pilgrims held a big feast to celebrate and say thank you…Well, listen up.  I have a news flash…  We Almost Lost…Thanksgiving!”    Laurie Halse Anderson brilliantly took a piece of little-known history, and wrote a humorous and relevant story for children.  Matt Faulkner’s illustrations are colorful , expressive, detailed and fun.

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale was born in 1788 and lived in Newport, New Hampshire.  She was the mother of five, a writer, the first female magazine editor, and the composer of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  She was dignified, smart, stubborn, and outspoken.  Her power was her pen and she could be quite persuasive.  She loved Thanksgiving and wanted the entire country to celebrate it on the same day.  With her pen, she wrote magazine articles about making the fourth Thursday in November a national holiday.   She wrote letters to politicians, and to four presidents,  Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, to no avail.  With the Civil war raging, Sarah felt even more strongly a national day of Thanksgiving could help bring the country together.  Once again, she picked up her pen and wrote President Lincoln.  He said yes, and in 1863 President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday.  It may have taken 38 years, but Sarah persevered and ultimately saved Thanksgiving.  Thank you, Sarah!

Sarah Hale proved to women that they could make a difference.   There is a very informative “Feast of Facts” at the end of the book that sheds more light on the traditions that grew up around Thanksgiving.  Sarah continued to write until 1877, and passed away in 1879, before her 90th birthday.

An excellent book for parents, teachers and librarians.  The author reminds us that children today have a great deal of influence.  “They can write to newspaper editors and government representatives, petition community leaders, and lobby Congress.  Pick up your pen.  Change the world.” 

Activity:  Parents and teachers may want to create a gratitude tree at home or in the classroom.  This may be easily done by taking a tree branch, sticking it into a flower-pot and filling it with sand/soil.  Make template leaf patterns out of colored paper, cut them out, and ask children to write what they are grateful for on a leaf.  This could lead to a good discussion at home or in the classroom.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved