One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to give your children an awareness of different cultures is to read and explore multicultural books. Thanksgiving, which is traditionally thought of as a North American tradition, has its roots in various cultures around the world.
To help learn about the diversity of Thanksgiving, here are our Top Ten Multicultural Thanksgiving Books.
I grew up only knowing the American Mayflower Pilgrim and Native American harvest story, not realizing that there were other versions and experiences of Thanksgiving out there — or that the American Thanksgiving story had nothing to do with Canadian Thanksgiving!
(Canadian Thanksgiving is actually a longer tradition – dating back to 1578.)
Many of these books are still set within the American context of Thanksgiving, but as seen through various cultures within America, showing that even within the same holiday and country, diversity is beautiful and plentiful.
Tikvah Means Hope by Patricia Polloco starts off giving a somewhat standard “neighbourhood multicultural” exposure, with Mr. Roth building a Sukkathto celebrate Sukkoth, the Jewish festival of Thanksgiving. However, the book quickly takes a turn that shows readers how much we truly have to be grateful for.
Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Thong is a mulitcultural twist on a learning about shapes book, which explains the Chinese Moon Festival (which was one of my favourite times of year as a little girl growing up in Beijing). This would be a great book for a child with Chinese ancestry, a diverse daycare, or a the multicultural-minded home. The book also includes a recipe for Moon Cakes, and you can easily incorporate this book into a greater astrological unit study.
Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon is a based off the counting song “Ten Little Indians,” and is a much more politically correct choice! (Especially for the holidays.) The turkeys get up to silly antics in this great board book for toddlers.The Firefighter’s Thanksgiving by Maribeth Boelts is a safe bet for any child obsessed with firefighters! A good reminder to look around us and say thanks for all of the people and tasks that go into making our days better, and our world safer.
Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley has fabulous oil pastel illustrations and gives an interesting perspective on the traditional turkey meal. Miguel, who lives in the city with his grandparents, is gifted a turkey to fatten up by his father, but the turkey becomes a pet! A great tale about compassion and making traditions.
Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules is a sweet story about Tuyet, a Vietnamese-American girl, is upset that her family isn’t celebrating Thanksgiving like all of her friends. She overcomes her fear of shame and judgement to discover that the importance of Thanksgiving is family — and that all families have different traditions.
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet — not a multicultural book, per se, but it highlights a different aspect and way of celebrating Thanksgiving, and the collage illustrations teamed with the magic of the giant balloon floats made it impossible not to include this list (plus the balloon artist, Tony Sarg, was a British immigrant!)
Read together with Milly and the Macy’s Day Parade by Shana Corey, a story about Milly, a Polish immigrant to America, whose family works for Mr. Macy. Through her joyful spirit she convinces Mr. Macy to incorporate old country traditions with new American ones to help make the Thanksgiving Day Parade one that everyone could enjoy.
Rivka’s First Thanksgiving by Okon Rael tells the story of Rivka, a young Jewish girl on a mission to convince her Rabbi (and family) that Thanksgiving is a holiday for all Americans. Like, Milly and the Macy’s Day Parade, the book honours old traditions and validates new traditions, giving children the power to help create their own celebrations.
As our tenth multicultural Thanksgiving book, I’m including a non-fiction book, Canadian Holidays: Thanksgiving by Jill Foran is a good information book for Canadian children to learn more about (and be proud of) our uniquely Canadian traditions. The American story of their First Thanksgiving often overshadows Canadian history — especially our rich Native Peoples’ history, like the story of Onatah, the Spirit of the Corn, which is shared here. (If you’re American, a non-fiction account of the Pilgrim Story would be a great choice, too!)
I hope you enjoyed our Top Ten List of Multicultural Thanksgiving Books – be sure to pin it for later and check out our other Read & Play collections and book-inspired activities.
What books will you be reading this Thanksgiving?