Thankful: Thanksgiving Day Thanks by Laura M. Elliott and Lynn Munsinger
"THANKSGIVING IS COMING," SAID SAM'S TEACHER MRS. WRIGHT.
"WHAT ONE SPECIAL THING ABOUT THE HOLIDAY WOULD YOU GIVE THANKS FOR?"
As the extroverts in the classroom start blurting out their favorites--football, sweet potatoes with marshmallows,shopping the sales--Mrs. Wright offers a group assignment as well.
"HOW SHOULD WE CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING IN OUR CLASS?"
Jeffrey advocates a special classroom Pilgrim feast. Tiffany is excited about wearing costumes. But Winston has what seems at first like an odd idea--his grandmother's yarn Thanksgiving turkey!
"EEEWWWW! YOU EAT YARN TURKEY?" shouts one class comic.
"NO. ITS A DECORATION. WE WRITE WHAT WE'RE THANKFUL FOR ON A PAPER FEATHER AND STICK IT IN THE TURKEY," Winston explained calmly.
Mrs. Wright loves Winston's idea and Winston promises to bring the yarn turkey for their celebration, and the rest of the kids soon get busy on their own projects. Nicole irons bright autumn leaves inside waxed paper for placemats, Winston makes a miniature Mayflower from popsicle sticks, and Mary Ann makes a Indian beaded headband and practices with her toy bow and arrow.
But Sam is a a kid who takes a long time to make up his mind about things. While everyone else is bubbling with ideas for the celebration, he is stumped. What is he most thankful for? What special thing about Thanksgiving is his favorite? Time is running out. But at last Sam has one idea he thinks his classmates will like a lot.
On the day of their celebration, Sam arrives at school with his project, four helium balloons--a dog, cat, frog, and a turkey-- to reproduce the Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. He ties them to a tree outside the classroom so that they will be a big surprise for his class. When it's time, he slips out to get his project and the kids are excited as the colorful balloons pass by their window, but before Sam can get them through the door, a powerful autumn wind pulls the strings out of his hand and they float away. Oh, no!
But acting quickly, his best friend Mary Ann rushes out with her bow and sends a suction cup arrow on a string up to stick on the dog balloon and pull it down. Sam is grateful, but he is despondent that his project is reduced to a one-dog parade, until Mrs. Wright asks him why the Thanksgiving morning parade is so special for him.
"MY WHOLE FAMILY WATCHES IT TOGETHER. GRANDPOP TELLS ABOUT GOING TO NEW YORK CITY FOR THE PARADE WHEN HE WAS LITTLE.
WE LAUGH A LOT."
And suddenly, Sam knows what he going to write on his two feathers--that he is thankful for his family and for friends like Mary Ann in Laura Malone Elliott's second Sam story, Thanksgiving Day Thanks (Katherine Tegen Books, 2013). As in the first book, A String of Hearts, hesitatin' Sam learns a little more about what is in his own heart, and his class and young readers learn a lot about the history and customs of our historical holiday along the way. Author Elliott appends two sections, "A Note about Thanksgiving," and "Other Thanksgiving Facts" which cover the history of our Thanksgiving observance from the very beginning right down to the traditional opening day of Christmas shopping customs.
Veteran artist Lynn Munsinger, famous for her charming young animal cartoon characters in classics such as the Tacky the Penguin books and the Hooway for Wodney Wat stories, vividly portrays the varied personalities in Sam's classroom and the qualities each brings to the mix in a way that young readers will recognize. As Booklist's reviewer says, "Bolstered by warm watercolor cartoon illustrations, this book is a perfect delivery system for a wealth of knowledge about Thanksgiving, with the story suggesting that family and friends are the main things to be thankful for."
For pre-Thanksgiving readaloud sessions, this one pairs well with Marc Brown's similarly themed classic Arthur's Thanksgiving (Arthur Adventure Series).