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Thanksgiving Books for Children

Here’s a selection of our 2017 faves
For little ones to gobble up!


Llama Llama Gives ThanksLlama Llama Gives Thanks cover image
An Anna Dewdney Book
Illustrated by J. T. Morrow
(Penguin Young Readers; $5.99, Ages 0-3)

In just under 60 words on 14 sturdy pages, Llama Llama Gives Thanks, based on the characters created by Anna Dewdney, perfectly and joyfully conveys what the holiday is all about — celebrating together with friends and family, trying new foods and giving thanks not just on Thanksgiving but throughout the year. A message worth remembering and easy to understand when shared by Dewdney’s beloved characters.


Otis Gives Thanks
Otis Gives Thanks cover imageWritten and Illustrated by Loren Long
(Philomel; $8.99, Ages 0-3)

Otis Gives Thanks, a 30 page board book, is certain to appeal to old Otis fans and bring new ones on board. Long’s popular tractor is grateful for so many things on the farm where he lives and works. Whether he’s hopping over hay or settling down to sleep, Otis is always thankful for playful moments, hard work and friends. This beautiful book radiates warmth with its stunning artwork of muted hues and feeling of a bygone era. Every page is a tribute to the heartland where our food is grown and a caring community including farmers love the land and the country, just like Otis does.

Where is Baby’s Turkey?Cover image Where is Baby's Turkey by Karen Katz
Written and illustrated by Karen Katz
(Little Simon; $6.99, Ages 1-4)

This sweet interactive board book invites young readers to help Baby find his cuddly turkey. By lifting assorted flaps and searching behind seasonal flowers, a gate, a basket, the fridge, in the kitchen and behind the door, Baby is introduced to a colorful variety of Thanksgiving items until his plush toy turkey is found. With just the right amount of flaps to entertain and engage, Where is Baby’s Turkey makes an ideal gift this holiday season for those just learning what Thanksgiving is all about.


The Ugly PumpkinCover image The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz
Written and illustrated by Dave Horowitz
(Nancy Paulsen Books; $7.99, Ages 2-5)
Move over duckling, here comes The Ugly Pumpkin! Horowitz’s hit, The Ugly Pumpkin is now in board book format with its humorous illustrations and rhyming first person text. Ideal for both Halloween and Thanksgiving, this tale is about a distinctly shaped pumpkin who is frequently mocked, never gets picked and is left to wander on his own to find someplace where he’ll be accepted and belong. The mood picks up when he discovers “a garden that was overrun with squash. I noticed something very odd and then thought, O my gosh …” This little pumpkin was a happy little pumpkin when he learns he’s really a squash! And for him, that was definitely something to be thankful for! Horowtiz’s whimsical illustrations add another layer of zaniness to a funny story that easily engages kids since it’s impossible not to empathize with the long, thin orange narrator.



Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade
Cover image from Rettie and the Ragamuffin ParadeWritten by Trinka Hakes Noble
Illustrated by David C. Gardner
(Sleeping Bear Press; $17.99, Ages 6-9)

If you’ve ever visited New York’s Tenement Museum, this historical fiction picture book will surely resonate with you. But even if you haven’t, from the very first page you’ll be transported back to the Lower East Side in November of 1918. Americans were overseas fighting and at home an influenza pandemic swept across the country making thousands of children, rich and poor, orphans. The disease did not discriminate. In the two-room tenement of nine year old Loretta Stanowski, or “Rettie” as she was known, looked after her consumptive mother and three younger siblings. Her father was a soldier somewhere abroad. So, to earn money to support the family during her mother’s illness, Rettie cleaned rags. She also longed for the upcoming Ragamuffin Parade which many now say was the precursor to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But would the city call off the event since so many people were ill and public gatherings had been stopped to prevent the influenza from spreading? During the Ragamuffin Parade, wealthy people would line the streets and give pennies to the raggedy clothed children who asked, “Have ya anything for Thanksgiving?” There would also be a scramble at busy street corners were pennies were tossed in the air and kids would scramble to collect as many as possible, hence the name. The parade would provide a much needed opportunity to bring in extra money. Putting food in the mouths of her family was Rettie’s top priority as was staying healthy so when her tenement building’s manager came down with the flu and was quarantined, an opportunity for Rettie to earn more money presented itself. This moving story is a well-written and engaging resource for anyone interested in daily life in early 20th century New York, although these scenes likely played out in cities across America. As the war came to end on November 11, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 28 a day of Thanksgiving. To this day we gather together as Americans to share a meal and reflect on our many reasons to be thankful. Between Noble’s well-researched story and Gardner’s evocative illustrations, Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade is a treat. The spirited young Rettie is an inspiring main character and her devotion to her family shines through on every page. An author’s note at the end provides more details for young readers as does an archival photo circa 1910 of the ragamuffins. Despite having grown up in New York, I’d never heard of this parade and appreciate Noble’s successful efforts at capturing the time, place and people struggling daily on the Lower East Side.


  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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Meet Rebecca, The Newest American Girl

Meet Rebecca, An American Girl by Jacqueline Dembar Greene and illustrated by Robert Hunt, with vignettes by Susan McAliley.

jenniferjuliaagresizedToday’s Guest Reviewers are playwright/screenwriter Jennifer Maisel, whose work includes the critically acclaimed plays The Last Seder and There or Here ( and the hit web series Faux Baby, and her almost 7 year old daughter, Julia, a first grader who is a big fan of American Girls, and just may be a singer-songwriter when she grows up.

As a child I was a big fan of Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series, about a Jewish family with five daughters living on the Lower East Side of New York at the turn of the century; recently Julia dug up one of my dog-eared copies of the book and we started in, pleased the writing held up for a new generation for readers. It seemed to be a nice synchronicity when the news came of American Girl’s newest history doll launching May 31 – 9 year old Rebecca Rubin, a Jewish girl living on the Lower East side with her four meet-rebeccasiblings in 1914 – and Meet Rebecca landed on our doorstep. And indeed there are marked similarities between the two series, both giving vivid pictures of the life of Jewish immigrant girls, yet not getting too much into the gritty details of the period.

As in other American Girl books, our main character faces a personal moral dilemma that is steeped in the historical milieu of the time. Rebecca’s family has close relatives that need to leave Russia but do not have the money to do so, and Rebecca’s family cannot easily afford to bring them over. Rebecca, however, is most concerned with being considered too young to light the Sabbath candles and searches for a way to stand out amongst her four siblings – something children of any generation can relate to. Rebecca hits on an ingenious way to earn money to buy her own candlesticks, but realizes, as time goes on, that perhaps the objects she longs for will not satisfy her as much as helping others could.

It’s a sweet story and Dembar Greene portrays the inner workings of a nine year old’s mind in a relatable way that kept my daughter eager for the next chapter. Julia thinks the person who thought this character up is our own “Clever Karina” (you’ll have to read the book to find out.) There are a lot of religious and cultural mores that Dembar Greene, for the most part, manages to deftly cover while keeping Rebecca’s journey in the forefront. I wished, however, that she had addressed the generational clash of concerns about the father in the family working on the Sabbath despite the grandparents’ disapproval more extensively – it was covered better in the Looking Back, America in 1914 chapter after Rebecca’s story was completed. But any book that opens my daughter’s eyes to trials her great grandparents went through when they came to this country and gets her slacker parents to celebrate Shabbat (at her insistence) has something going for it.

And for those Mommy fans of All-of-a-Kind Family – there is a doll just for us.
NOTE: This Sat., June 6 at 4:30 p.m. is American Girl at the Egyptian Theater. Call 877-247-5223 for more info.

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