Sunday, November 15, 2015


Well, I did my annual visit to Barnes and Noble to see what they had on the Thanksgiving shelf. Never a pleasant outing, I hasten to add, but one that I do each year, hoping that there won't be any new books where characters do a Thanksgiving reenactment or play of some kind.

Out this year from HarperCollins is Just a Special Thanksgiving by Mercer Mayer. I'll say up front that I do not recommend it. Here's the synopsis:

Little Critter® has charmed readers for over forty years.
Now he is going to have a Thanksgiving he'll never forget! From the school play to a surprise dinner for all of Critterville, celebrate along with Little Critter and his family as they give thanks this holiday. Starring Mercer Mayer's classic, loveable character, this brand-new 8x8 storybook is perfect for story time and includes a sheet of stickers!

If you just look at the cover, you don't see anybody in feathers. You might think they're doing a "just be thankful" kind of story, but nope. 

One of the first pages shows Critter and his buddies at school, getting ready for the play. 

When it is time for the play, Critter (playing the part of a turkey), freezes and the others look on, worried:

Later, everyone goes to the parade, where Critter ends up on a float:

Pretty awful, start to finish, and I gotta say, too, that I'm disappointed. Though I haven't read a Critter book in a long long time, I do have fond memories of them. I dove into research spaces and see that a colleague, Michelle Abate, has an article about Critter in a 2015 issue of Bookbird. I'm going to see if I can get a copy of it. Course, her article won't have anything about Just a Special Thanksgiving in it, but I'm interested in a researcher's perspective on the series. 

Oh, and here's a photo of the display:

I didn't look at each book. Some are familiar from years past, like Pete the Cat in which Pete is shown as Squanto. And there's some messed up images in the Curious George book, too. And Pinkalicious

If I was buying? I'd get that one on the bottom row: The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing. It is hilarious. That page where the kids run into "the great wall of butts" is priceless! I know my sister's grandson would love that part. 

Update: Nov 16 2015

I got Michelle Abate's article, "The Biggest Loser: Mercer Mayer's Little Critter Series: The Queer Art of Failure and the American Obsession with Achievement," published in Bookbird in January of 2014. Reading it helped me think about why I liked the books I read with my daughter when she was little. Abate writes (p. 8):
...although he never completes any of the tasks that he sets out to accomplish, these disappointments allow him to discover alternative achievements that are, arguably, even more fulfilling and important than his initial goal... 

Those alternative achievements? The importance of relationships. 

Reading her article makes me think about the relationships the publishing industry has with Native people--indeed--with the many peoples who have been misrepresented or omitted entirely from the books they publish. From my point of view, Just A Special Thanksgiving is a failure that Mercer Mayer and his publisher can set aside in favor of the relationships they want to build with Native people and all people who are saying 'stop giving us this story' of Thanksgiving! 

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