Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Oyate's List of Thanksgiving Books to Avoid

A few years ago, Oyate had a list of books about Thanksgiving that they did not recommend. The list was on their website.

Given the number of books that are published every year about that holiday and the ways that Native peoples continue to be misrepresented in children's books, you would be right to guess that their list is long.

That list is not at their website any longer. In a redesign a few years ago they decided to remove it and their Books to Avoid section. They decided that, although a list might seem efficient, it didn't give people the critical thinking skills they need to develop in order to make decisions on their own. I agree--I'd prefer people develop those skills and apply them their selection/deselection activities.

On the other hand, teachers use lists of good books all the time. Generally speaking, they assume that the person who put that list together has the expertise necessary such that their evaluations can be trusted.

I personally have not read all of these books, but I definitely learned a great deal from Oyate's work. I strongly encourage teachers and librarians to get materials published by Oyate.

My guess is that I'd concur with their decision about each of these books, and I'd also guess that any given book on the list got there because it put forth one or more of what Judy Dow and Beverly Slapin called myths in their Deconstructing the Myths of the First Thanksgiving. If one of these books is on your shelf and you're considering weeding it, I recommend you read it and Dow and Slapin's essay and then make a decision.

I've also shared Oyate's list of recommended books here. And, for more books that accurately portray Native people, see my page of Best Books. (Note: the first sentence of his paragraph was not visible enough. Two people submitted comments asking for recommended books. To help it be more visible, I made it a separate paragraph in bold and added the sentence/link to best books to supplement Oyate's list.)

Dow and Slapin's piece on Thanksgiving myths is also in the outstanding resource A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children (published in 2005), as are many (all?) of the in-depth critical reviews that were on Oyate's page of Books to Avoid. Get A Broken Flute, and Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children (published in 1987 and again in 2006), too. Both are vitally important for all that they contain. (Note: I added this paragraph soon after hitting the upload button on this post, and I added Slapin's name as a co-author. My apologies to her for the initial omission.)

Own your knowledge. Own your decisions.

Accorsi, William. Friendship's First Thanksgiving. Holiday House, 1992.

Aliki. Corn is Maize: The Gift of the Indians. Harper & Row, 1976.

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Ansary, Mir Tamim. Thanksgiving Day. Heinemann, 2002.

Apel, Melanie Ann. The Pilgrims. Kidhaven Press, 2003.

Bartlett, Robert Merrill, The Story of Thanksgiving. HarperCollins, 2001.

Barth, Edna. Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of Thanksgiving Symbols. Clarion, 1975.

Borden, Louise. Thanksgiving Is... Scholastic, 1997.

Brown, Marc. Arthur's Thanksgiving. Little, Brown. 1983.

Bruchac, Joseph. Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving. Harcourt, 2000.

Buckley, Susan Washburn. Famous Americans: 15 Easy to Read Biography Mini-Books. Scholastic, 2000.

Bulla, Clyde Robert. Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims. Scholastic, 1990.

Celsi, Teresa. Squanto and the First Thanksgiving. Steck-Vaughn, 1989.

Clements, Andrew. Look Who's in the Thanksgiving Play! Simon & Shuster, 1999.

Cohen, Barbara. Molly's Pilgrim. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1983.

Conaway, Judith. Happy Thanksgiving! Things to Make and Do. Troll Communications, 1986.

Crane, Carol and Helle Urban. P is for Pilgrim: A Thanksgiving Alphabet. Sleeping Bear Press, 2003.

Dalgliesh, Alice. The Thanksgiving Story. Scholastic, 1954/1982.

Daugherty, James. The Landing of the Pilgrims. Random House, 1987.

Davis, Kenneth C. Don't Know Much About the Pilgrims. HarperCollins, 2002.

DePaola, Tomie. My First Thanksgiving. Putnam, 1992.

Donnelly, Judy. The Pilgrims and Me. Grosset & Dunlap, 2002.

Dubowski, Cathy East. The Story of Squanto, First Friend to the Pilgrims. Dell, 1990.

Fink, Deborah. It's a Family Thanksgiving! A Celebration of an American Tradition for Children and their Families. Harmony Hearth, 2000.

Flindt, Myron. Pilgrims: A Simulation of the First Year at Plymouth Colony. Interact, 1994.

Fritz, Jean. Who's That Stepping on Plymouth Rock? Putnam & Grossett, 1975.

George, Jean Craighead. The First Thanksgiving. Puffin. 1993.

Gibbons, Gail. Thanksgiving Day. Holiday House, 1985.

Gibbons, Gail. Thanksgiving Is... Holiday House, 2004.

Greene, Rhonda Gowler. The Very First Thanksgiving Day. Atheneum, 2002.

Hale, Anna W. The Mayflower People: Triumphs and Tragedies. Harbinger House, 1995.

Hallinan, P. K. Today is Thanksgiving! Ideals Children's Books, 1993.

Harness, Cheryl. Three Young Pilgrims. Aladdin, 1995.

Hayward, Linda. The First Thanksgiving. Random House, 1990.

Hennessy, B. G. One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims. Viking, 1999.

Jackson, Garnet. The First Thanksgiving. Scholastic, 2000.

Jassem, Kate. Squanto: The Pilgrim Adventure. Troll Communications. 1979.

Kamma, Anne. If You Were At... The First Thanksgiving. Scholastic, 2001.

Kessel, Joyce K. Squanto and the First Thanksgiving. Carolrhoda, 1983.

Kinnealy, Janice. Let's Celebratae Thanksgiving, A Book of Drawing Fun. Watermill, 1988.

Koller, Jackie French. Nickommoh! A Thanksgiving Celebration. Atheneum, 1999.

Marx, David F. Thanksgiving. Children's Press, 2000.

McGovern, Ann. The Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving. Scholastic, 1973.

McMullan, Kate. Fluffy's Thanksgiving. Scholastic, 1997.

Melmed, Laura Krauss. The First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story. HarperCollins, 2001.

Metaxas, Eric. Squanto and the First Thanksgiving. Rabbit Ears Books, 1996.

Moncure, Jane Belk. Word Bird's Thanksgiving Words. Child's World, 2002.

Ochoa, Anna. Sticker Stories: The Thanksgiving Play. Grosset & Dunlap, 2002.

Osborne, Mary Pope. Thanksgiving on Thursday. Random House, 2002.

Parker, Margot. What is Thanksgiving Day? Children's Press, 1988.

Peacock, Carol Antoinette. Pilgrim Cat. Whitman, 2004.

Prelutsky, Jack. It's Thanksgiving. Morrow, 1982.

Rader, Laura J. A Child's Story of Thanksgiving. Ideals Children's Books, 1998

Randall, Ronnie. Thanksgiving Fun: Great Things to Make and Do. Kingfisher, 1994.

Raphael, Elaine and Don Bolognese. The Story of the First Thanksgiving. Scholastic, 1991.

Rau, Dana Meachen. Thanksgiving. Children's Press, 2000.

Roberts, Bethany. Thanksgiving Mice! Clarion, 2001.

Rockwell, Anne. Thanksgiving Day. HarperCollins, 1999.

Rogers, Lou. The First Thanksgiving. Modern Curriculum Press. 1962.

Roloff, Nan. The First American Thanksgiving. Current. 1980.

Roop, Connie and Peter. Let's Celebrate Thanksgiving. Millbrook, 1999.

Roop, Connie and Peter. Pilgrim Voices: Our First Year in the New World. Walker, 1995.

Ross, Katherine. Crafts for Thanksgiving. Millbrook, 1995.

Ross, Katherine. The Story of the Pilgrims. Random House, 1995.

Ruelle, Karen Gray. The Thanksgiving Beast Feast. Holiday House, 1999.

San Souci, Robert. N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims. Chronicle, 1991.

Scarry, Richard. Richard Scarry's The First Thanksgiving of Low Leaf Worm. Little Simon, 2003.

Schultz, Charles M. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Sewall, Marcia. People of the Breaking Day. Atheneum, 1990.

Sewall, Marica. The People of Plimoth. Aladdin, 1986.

Sewall, Marcia. Thunder from the Clear Sky. Atheneum, 1995.

Siegel, Beatrice. Fur Traders and Traders: The Indians, the Pilgrims, and the Beaver. Walker, 1981.

Siegel, Beatrice, Indians of the Northeast Woodlands. Walker, 1992.

Silver, Donald M. and Patricia J. Wynne. Easy Make and Learn Projects: The Pilgrims, the Mayflower & More. Scholastic, 2001.

Skarmeas, Nancy J. The Story of Thanksgiving. Ideals Publications, 1999.

Sorenson, Lynda. Holidays: Thanksgiving. Rourke, 1994.

Stamper, Judith Bauer. New Friends in a New Land: A Thanksgiving Story. Steck-Vaughn, 1993.

Stamper, Judith Bauer. Thanksgiving Fun Activity Book. Troll, 1993.

Stanley, Diane. Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation. HarperCollins, 2004.

Steigemeyer, Julie. Thanksgiving: A Harvest Celebration. Concordia, 2003.

Tryon, Leslie. Albert's Thanksgiving. Aladdin, 19983.

Umnik, Sharon Dunn (Ed.). 175 Easy-to-Do Thanksgiving Crafts. Boyds Mills Press, 1996.

Waters, Kate. Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast. Scholastic, 2001.

Waters, Kate. Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy. Scholastic, 1993.

Waters, Kate. Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl. Scholastic, 1989.

Waters, Kate. Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Boy in Pilgrim Times. 1996.

Weisgard, Leonard. The Plymouth Thanksgiving. Doubleday, 1967.

Whitehead, Pat. Best Thanksgiving Book, ABC Adventures. Troll Communications, 1985.


Anonymous said...

What's the problem with Thank You Sarah? I use it every year and the kids love it.

Beverly Slapin said...

In THANK YOU, SARAH HALE, the protagonist is described as a “superhero,” who was “bold, brave, stubborn and smart” and whose weapon was her pen. So, when people started to ignore Thanksgiving, “well, that just curdled her gravy.” And she organized and campaigned for decades to have Thanksgiving declared a national holiday. Finally, after “38 years, thousands of letters and countless bottles of ink,” President Lincoln, who was embroiled in the US Civil War at the time, declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.

I can see why THANK YOU, SARAH HALE is difficult for some teachers to let go. The writing is idiomatic and appealing, and the illustrations are comical and appealing, too.

Unfortunately, THANK YOU, SARAH HALE is fatally flawed. (1) Sarah Hale campaigned to establish the national commemoration of “The First Thanksgiving,” which glorifies the myths and ignores the truths. So non-Native children who read this book fall into the trap of believing many of the myths we wrote about in our essay, “Deconstructing the Myths of The First Thanksgiving.” And Native children are, once again, embarrassed. (2) The illustrations—including those of Native men, women and children, sitting down with settler men, women and children—both caricature Indian people and extend the myth. So, while non-Native children (who have been taught to see white people as the “norm” and Indian people as “other”) are not negatively affected by the cartoonish images of white people here, Native children are, once again, embarrassed.

The only use I can see for THANK YOU, SARAH HALE is as an example of how the myths of “The First Thanksgiving” and Manifest Destiny are perpetuated.

Beverly Slapin said...

Sorry, everyone. In my haste to reply to anonymous's question, I wrote in the wrong title. The correct title of this book is THANK YOU, SARAH: THE WOMAN WHO SAVED THANKSGIVING.

Anonymous said...

Can you please make a list of books you CAN recommend? That would be very helpful.

Beverly Slapin said...


(1) Here’s a short list of recommended books that show a Native perspective about giving thanks:

Sally M. Hunter (Ojibwe), FOUR SEASONS OF CORN: A WINNEBAGO TRADITION. Lerner, 1997, grades 4-6

Okanagan Tribal Council, HOW FOOD WAS GIVEN: AN OKANAGAN LEGEND. Theytus Books, 1984, all grades

Russell M. Peters (Wampanoag), CLAMBAKE: A WAMPANOAG TRADITION. Lerner, 1992, grades 4-6

Gordon Regguinti (Ojibwe), THE SACRED HARVEST: OJIBWAY WILD RICE GATHERING. Lerner, 1992, grades 4-6

Jake Swamp (Mohawk), GIVING THANKS: A NATIVE AMERICAN GOOD MORNING MESSAGE. Lee & Low, 1995, all grades

Laura Waterman Wittstock (Seneca), ININATIG’S GIFT OF SUGAR: TRADITIONAL NATIVE SUGARMAKING. Lerner, 1993, grades 4-6

(2) Here’s some more recommended material about the 1621 feast and other history, also from a Native perspective:

Catherine Grace O’Neill and Margaret M. Bruchac (Abenaki), 1621: A NEW LOOK AT THANKSGIVING. National Geographic, 2001, grades 4-up

Simon Ortiz (Acoma), THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE. Children’s Book Press, 1988, all grades

Council on Interracial Books for Children, CHRONICLES OF AMERICAN INDIAN PROTEST. CIBC, 1971

Doris Seale (Santee/Cree/Abenaki), Beverly Slapin, and Carolyn Silverman (Cherokee), eds., THANKSGIVING: A NATIVE PERSPECTIVE. Oyate, 1998, teacher resource

(3) And, for further research, here’s a list of primary source material from a colonialist perspective:

William Bradford, OF PLIMOTH PLANTATION, 1620-1647 (originally published in 1856 under the title, HISTORY OF PLIMOTH PLANTATION. Random House, 1981



Janna said...

I agree, a list of recommended books would be more helpful. Thanks!

Debbie Reese said...

Janna--your request prompted me to edit the post that includes a new paragraph with a list to Best Books.

Janna said...

Debbie, thank you. I'm also curious as to the reasons for Squanto's Journey being on the list, since it was written by an American Indian author. I just read it recently and I did notice he seemed to take a very optimistic tone that might not feel authentic... but are there other inaccuracies?

Tina said...

I'm curious to see that some of the books on the list are sold by Plimoth Plantation, on their website. How can that be? I thought that Plimoth Plantation would be about accurate education about Native history?

Also, Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times...I'd like to know the issues with this looks like, from the info I see in the samples on Amazon, that it was written in conjunction with the Wampanoag Indian Program at Plimoth Plantation.

Is the Plimoth Plantation a problem in their education about Native history? I would think they would be a good place to go for this. Though, admittedly, the books they include in their online store surprised me.

Sarah said...

I notice that most of the recommended books are for grades 4 and up. I am a librarian who works primarily with preschoolers, and unfortunately nearly all my library's picture books on Thanksgiving are on the "books to avoid" list. Are there any recommended books for the preschool age?

Debbie Reese said...

Sarah--this one for sure:

Jake Swamp (Mohawk), GIVING THANKS: A NATIVE AMERICAN GOOD MORNING MESSAGE. Lee & Low, 1995, all grades

For very young kids, I'd stay away from historical contexts and focus on Native people of the present. There's a terrific lesson plan book called LESSONS FROM TURTLE ISLAND for early childhood classrooms. I think you'll find it helpful.