Thankful: Over the River and Through the Wood illustrated by Matt Taveres
OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOOD!
WHEN GRANDMOTHER SEES US COME,
SHE WILL SAY, "OH, DEAR!
THE CHILDREN ARE HERE!
BRING A PIE FOR EVERYONE!"
HURRA FOR THE FUN.
IS THE PUDDING DONE?
HURRA FOR THE PUMPKIN PIE!
If "A Visit from St. Nicholas" is our national Christmas song, so, too, "Over the River and Through the Wood" by L. Maria Child is our favorite secular Thanksgiving carol. Matt Tavares' striking version of Over the River and Through the Wood: The New England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day (Candlewick, 2011) is historic in style but fresh and sparkling, capturing the fun of the sleigh ride through the frosty morning to celebrate Thanksgiving with grandparents and cousins.
Taveres skillfully uses ink, pencil, watercolor, and gouache to catch the spirit of the 1844 poem, while the expressions upon the faces of his characters show modern kids that even in those days packing up to go to Grandma's for a holiday feast hasn't really changed much over the seventeen or so decades since it was written. Taveres' art uses focus and perspective beautifully, zooming in on delicious details and going wide to catch the sparkling snowy landscape. The bundled children clearly relish the exciting ride, taking the family sleigh out for its first run of the winter, passing other kids skating on the pond and busy with a snowball fight, yet these children clearly look forward to getting there to play with their cousins just as modern kids do:
OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOOD
TO SEE LITTLE JOHN AND ANN.
WE'LL KISS THEM ALL
AND PLAY SNO-BAL,
AND STAY AS LONG AS WE CAN.
Unlike other adapters, Taveres retains the vocabulary, spelling, and all eight verses of the original and reproduces the look of that long-ago Thanksgiving, all the while making sure that modern readers can see their own holiday treks as part of the same tradition. Grandmother runs outside in her apron, just as current grandmoms do, to be the first to hug the kids, and offers goodies before they can take off their shawls and woolly caps! For added fun, Taveres adds the family dog, a perky little black pooch who snags one of the children's windblown woolly hats and chases the sleigh all the way to Grandma's with it in his mouth!
Over the River and Through the Wood: The New England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day is a lovely way to begin our oldest national tradition of the Thanksgiving season, truly one of the simplest and most joyful of a family's year, in a picture book which brings the tradition home to all who read it. One glimpse of Grandma's house, candles glowing in wall sconces and visible through the windows a table already set for the thankful guests, tells us all we need to know about our special day.
"A charming and dynamic rendition of the song about Thanksgiving Day," says School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly concurs in kind: "Tavares crafts a polished tribute to another holiday classic."