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A Welcome New Look at Thanksgiving – Keepunumuk

 

 

KEEPUNUMUK:
Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story

Written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten

Illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr.

(Charlesbridge; $16.99, Ages 3-7)

 

 

 Keepunumuk cover ancestors corn squash fox

 

Starred Reviews – Booklist, Foreward Reviews, Kirkus

A 2022 New England Book Award winner

 

 

From the publisher:

Four Native American creators weave together the story of Keepunumuk, the time of harvest.
In this Wampanoag story told in a Native tradition, two kids from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe learn the
story of Weeâchumun (corn) and the first Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving story that most Americans know celebrates the Pilgrims. But without members of the
Wampanoag tribe who already lived on the land where the Pilgrims settled, the Pilgrims would never have
made it through their first winter. And without Weeâchumun (corn), the Native people wouldn’t have helped.
An important picture book honoring both the history and tradition that surrounds the story of the first
Thanksgiving.

 

Review:

This is the book I’ve been waiting for. This is the Thanksgiving story I’ve needed to read and I hope you’ll feel the same way I do. It’s a book to return to every year so the important perspective shared can become as ingrained in our culture as other holidays whose origin stories were incomplete. What I loved best was how the four authors and illustrator, all First Peoples, conveyed this fresh, honest look at Thanksgiving using the same storytelling tradition that has passed from generation to generation for thousands of years. This meaningful tale is presented from the point of view of the vital corn (Weeâchumun) and will pull readers into following along to learn how the first Thanksgiving came to be.

 

Keepunumuk int1 new people are coming on boats
Interior spread from Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten and illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr., Charlesbridge ©2022.

 

Keepunumuk begins with young Maple and Quill enjoying being outdoors in the garden. They are from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts. The rich colors hint at the time of year, one not only of a seasonal change but of a time long ago when the Pilgrims arrived. The children ask their grandmother (N8hkumuhs in the Wôpanâak language) about what vegetables to pick. She thinks corn, beans, and squash, also known to Native Americans as the Three Sisters, are a good choice. She also shares a story about what some call the first Thanksgiving but to the First Peoples it’s always been known as harvest time or Keepunumuk.

 

Keepunumuk int2 sprouts pushing through soil
Interior spread from Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten and illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr., Charlesbridge ©2022.

 

Corn’s voice came alive as it described how soon word went round that the Pilgrims planned to stay but were unprepared for the harsh winter. They suffered from a lack of food too. The corn, beans, and squash as well as animal friends including fox and rabbit, duck, and turkey grew concerned.

Over the next few nights, Weeâchumun sent
dreams to the First Peoples with a message:
Bring me and my sisters to the newcomers.
They are hungry and need help.

 

Keepunumuk int3 spring turned into summer
Interior spread from Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten and illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr., Charlesbridge ©2022.

 

The First Peoples sent their leader to meet with the newcomers (see illustration above). Then he asked Tisquantum, also known as Squanto, to teach the Pilgrims how to plant and grow their native vegetables, the Three Sisters corn, squash, and beans. This was instrumental in their survival and also where the Pilgrim’s take on the three-day celebration of Thanksgiving arose. Readers also learn that to the Wampanoag it was a time of mourning, not one of giving thanks.

It’s explained that while there could not have been a Thanksgiving without the help and guidance of the Wampanoag people, it came at a great cost to them. Many caught illnesses brought over by the Pilgrims and died. And of course, there were wars with settlers as they moved onto and claimed more and more of Native American land. The landscape of America was forever changed after this. At the beginning of the book there is a helpful glossary. Back matter explains how the story of Thanksgiving has been passed on, how the Wampanoag celebrate more than one harvest feast, and how they honor nature and those who have passed into the spirit world by offering Spirit Plates of food in gratitude. I am grateful this book is in the world and can become a part of home, school, and public library collections. Like its gorgeous atmospheric art throughout, this book will add warmth and a greater understanding and appreciation to any Thanksgiving celebration. Having the Wôpanâak language included grounds the story as does the photo of the real-life Maple and Quill.

Click here for an activity guide. Find other downloadables on the publisher’s website.

Check out the Keepunumuk site at https://keepunumuk.com/.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel 

 

 

Learn More About the Authors and Illustrator:

Danielle Greendeer – Charlesbridge

Keepunumuk – Anthony Perry (anthonyperryauthor.com)

Alexis Bunten – Charlesbridge

Garry Meeches Sr. – Charlesbridge

 

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Little Critter: Just a Special Thanksgiving by Mercer Mayer

LITTLE CRITTER: JUST A SPECIAL THANKSGIVING
Written and Illustrated by Mercer Mayer
(Harper Festival$4.99, Ages 4-7)

LittleCritter_JustaSpecialThanksgiving

One of the very first picture books I ever bought for my son was by Mercer Mayer. I love Little Critter’s character:  rambunctious, sweet, and fun-loving – someone who kids of all ages can relate to. Much like other series books I enjoy (The  Berenstain Bears and the Froggy series), Little Critter’s books give us an opportunity to see the central character in different snippets of life. In Just a Special Thanksgiving, we celebrate the holiday alongside Little Critter and learn that, though Thanksgiving activities and events may not go as planned, realizing the spirit of the holiday is what matters.

From the get-go we feel that exciting sense of “Thanksgiving is in the air.” In the classroom, Little Critter and his friends are drawing pilgrims and turkeys. When school is out, he must rush home to change into his turkey costume for the Thanksgiving play. While you can probably guess what his lines are, poor Little Critter forgets them and opts to sing a song.

At the “big Thanksgiving Day Parade” early next morning more surprises from Little Critter are in store for all participants.  Tired from marching, our hero hops on a float proudly waving to his parents who, along with law enforcement and other parade goers, have become quite irate by his actions.

I love how Little Critter’s innocence tugs on our heartstrings and how blissfully unaware he is of the commotion his actions cause. What’s even more touching is the way he tries to “right” his wrongs (particularly in the scenes at the grocery store) which lead to even more disaster. Kids will enjoy the humor implicit in Little Critter’s goof-ups. At the same time, parents will be reminded that, no matter how bad things may seem, our children’s intentions are good; their hearts are in the right place. Little Critter’s excitement with helping cook and serve the meal at the community center reminds us what’s at the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday.

A great book to curl up with your little one-perhaps while the turkey is roasting in the oven! (Includes 20 stickers).

  • Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

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The Mayflower by Mark Greenwood

The Mayflower written by Mark Greenwood
and illustrated by Frané Lessac
(Holiday House, 2014. $16.95. Ages 4-8)

A Voyage to the First Thanksgiving

The-Mayflower-cvr.jpgIn 1621, a group of nearly 100 people, many of whom experienced religious persecution, left England to find a place where they could worship freely. After an arduous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean–which included violent storms and the birth of a child, they sighted land and eventually founded a settlement near Plymouth Harbor.

Their troubles were not over. Arriving late in the year, they faced a cold and difficult winter. Many were ill. However, in early spring, Squanto, a native from a local tribe, taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn and fertilize the fields with fish. That fall, Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag, and 90 of his warriors joined the Pilgrims for a harvest celebration, our first Thanksgiving

Greenwood’s narrative in this picture book can be read aloud to young children to introduce them to the traditional Thanksgiving story. Complex issues, such as religious persecution and the Mayflower Compact, are briefly, but clearly expressed in language young children can understand. The hardships the Pilgrims faced are not overdramatized and the author weaves in interesting “kid friendly” facts about daily life aboard the ship: food, sleeping arrangements, entertainment, etc.

Lessac’s colorful gouache illustrations, reminiscent of folk art, enliven the narrative and create a vivid and dramatic visual of the journey and the settlement. A stunning two-page spread of a beautiful, calm night at sea, the sky full of stars sparkling around a full moon, belies the dangers the ship would soon face on its journey to the new world. Sure enough, a month later, the Mayflower and its passengers and crew sail into the stormy season, which Lessac stylistically portrays with a pinkish sky dotted with dark storm clouds. Jagged bolts of lightning and torrents of rain fall from the clouds. The image of the ship rolling in the rough sea further demonstrates the ocean’s frightening power and the hardships the crew and passengers faced on their way to the new world.

An excellent and colorful read aloud to introduce younger children to the origins of our Thanksgiving celebration.

Visit Australian author Mark Greenwood’s website for more information about his books.

Illustrator Frané Lessac’s website is a must-see for her artwork and a video about how the illustrator works.

Click here for Holiday House’s Educator’s Guide for this book.

Enjoy this dramatic book trailer for The Mayflower.


– Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

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The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

Some Thanksgiving Humor for This Holiday Season

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing cover imageIt’s Thanksgiving, and that means all the family is going to Grandma’s house. Gavin is dressed in his best sweater vest and tie, and ready to be bored. His parents put him in the room with the babysitter, and tell him to wait there until he’s called for dinner.

“Have fun!” Gavin’s dad called.
But Gavin knew it was not going to be fun.
Not fun at all.

In The Great Thanksgiving Escape by author/illustrator Mark Fearing, (Candlewick Press, 2014; $15.99, Ages 3-7), Gavin resigns himself to spending his day with drooling, milk-spilling, block-throwing little kids. But his boredom comes to an end when his cousin, Rhonda, emerges from under the coat pile and coaxes a reluctant Gavin to make a break for the swing-set out back.

“The way I see it, Gav,” she said, “is that sometimes you have to make your own fun.”

There are many obstacles between the two escape artists and their desired goal. Cheek-pinching aunts, zombie-like teenagers, and The Great Wall of Butts (adults standing in front of the football game on T.V.), must all be dodged en route to the swings.

Mark Fearing is no stranger to illustrating picture books. He has several award winners under his belt, including The Book That Eats People, The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, and How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans. He’s even written and illustrated a graphic novel, Earthling!, but this is the first picture book that he has both written and illustrated. I’m guessing, it won’t be his last.

Fearing has captured the spirit of Thanksgiving from a child’s perspective, both physically and emotionally, though there’s plenty of grown-up humor as well. His illustrations, done in pencil and completed digitally, are of adult shoes, hemlines, and grabby hands in a palette of fall colors. The children’s excited faces are seen peeking over the counter tops at baked goods. Their wide-eyed excitement turns to sad eyes of disappointment, when an ill-timed rainstorm almost spoils their fun. Almost. As Gavin says:

“The way I see it, Rhonda, is that sometimes you have to make your own fun.”

This picture book is a good place to start having fun with your young ones this holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!

Click here to download an activity kit.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

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