Sunday, November 22, 2009

Talkin' Up Turkey Day: Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson

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: turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberries--the works.

Well, listen up. I have a news flash....


Think of it! No turkey and dressing! No weekday regional gridiron rivalries on TV! No l-o-o-o-ng holiday weekend in November! No Aunt Lorena's-caramel-pumpkin marshmallow-surprise.... . Oh, well, you can see what a sad loss some of that would be.

And it almost was lost, had it not been for one woman--Sarah Hale. In her time the celebration of Thanksgiving had become a lackluster thing, honored vaguely and then only in the New England states.

More and more, people ignored the holiday.

Thanksgiving was in trouble.

It needed... A SUPERHERO!

No, not that kind of superhero. Not a caped and masked SuperPilgrim with a giant P on his chest. Not a giant cleated Pigskin Man. Not even Cornucopia Man. And definitely not TURKEY DUDE.

Thanksgiving needed Sarah Hale.

Sarah had the right stuff. Although she was petite and ladylike, she was made of steel. While raising five children with one hand, with the other she fought for many good causes--from playgrounds to girls' schools to the abolition of slavery. She wrote poetry, novels, children's stories, even "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and became the first woman magazine editor, publishing Longfellow and Poe, BUT. . .

When folks started to ignore Thanksgiving, well,
that just curdled her gravy.

She picked up her PEN!

The pen IS mightier than the sword. Sarah was a writer, so she wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, letters to senators and governors, and even wrote her best letter to none other than President Zachary Taylor himself. But "Old Rough and Ready" was not ready. She waited and then wrote President Millard Fillmore (WHO?), but he was too engaged in securing his place in history. She wrote President Franklin Pierce. Too busy redrafting the Ostend Manifesto. Sarah wrote President Buchanan, but it seems "he had other things (abolition, secession, states rights) on his mind."

But Sarah never relented. Asking that the fourth Thursday in November be made a national holiday, she tried the new guy, the newly elected President Abraham Lincoln, arguing that being grateful together would bring the divided country together. And then...


It took Sarah Hale thirty-eight years, thousands of letters, and countless bottles of ink, but she did it. That bold, brave, stubborn, and smart lady saved Thanksgiving...for all of us.

Thank you, Sarah.
Author Laurie Halse Anderson brings her Newbery-winning historical skills to bear on this true story of the woman who almost single-handedly saved what many consider our best-loved civil observance. Filled with fresh humor and historical detail, her Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving tells a story as true to the national character as is the original Pilgrim and Indians story, in a style that will grab the attention of children grown blase' about Thanksgiving traditions. Matt Faulkner's illustrations are hilariously over the top, as when he shows a sobbing linebacker, a sorrowful Squanto, a pouting Pilgrim lad, a wistful Wampanoag lass, a deflated dinosaur parade balloon, an anguished football fan with his useless remote in hand, and a flock of rejoicing turkeys as the television screen reads "THANKSGIVING CANCELLED. NO FOOTBALL TODAY!."

A worldly wordsmith herself, Sarah Hale would doubtless be pleased with this telling of her biggest story.

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