When choosing books for a Thanksgiving storytime, I think it’s important to not sell the lie of the Thanksgiving story that many of us grew up on. While there are some beloved books about the “pilgrims and Indians” story that many Americans grew up with, I prefer to shy away from these books on Thanksgiving. Some are clearly offensive, while even the most mild of these stories perpetuate a false narrative.

On the other hand, I don’t think we should completely shy away from the original Thanksgiving story by focusing solely on turkeys. This seems like taking the easy way out. While I do absolutely love a turkey themed storytime – more on that later – there are plenty of excellent books about Thanksgiving to share. Here are some of the books I like to share around Thanksgiving and some resources to find books that best represent and honor the Indigenous experience.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on and/or purchase from some links, I make a portion of the sale. This helps keep Bitch Bookshelf running.


First, I want to share two important resources:

  • https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/ is an absolute go-to for me. “Established in 2006 by Dr. Debbie Reese of Nambé Pueblo, American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) provides critical analysis of Indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books.” If you are ever unsure as to whether or not a book featuring Indigenous peoples is “good” then I highly suggest you check out this site before recommending it or including it in a storytime.
  • http://oyate.org/ is a resource I found while writing this post. “Oyate is a Native organization working to see that our lives and histories are portrayed with honesty and integrity, and that all people know that our stories belong to us.” This is another excellent resource for evaluating books as their work “includes critical evaluation of books and curricula with Indian themes.”

I easily could copy and paste some of the awesome lists I found on these sites here to share with you, but I would rather direct you to the posts themselves:

Two Thankful Books I Love

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message written by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr.

This book is found on many “best of” Thanksgiving list and for a good reason.

The summary, from Amazon:

Giving Thanks is a special children’s version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada and that is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations. Full color.


The Thankful Book by Todd Parr

Thankfulness is often a difficult concept to convey to little ones. I find this book really helps, and I love Todd Parr’s illustration style.

The summary, from Amazon:

I am thankful for music because it makes me want to dance.
I am thankful for my feet because they help me run and play.
I am thankful for kisses because they make me feel loved.

Todd Parr’s bestselling books have taught kids about unconditional love, respecting the earth, facing fears, and more, all with his signature blend of playfulness and sensitivity. Now, The Thankful Book celebrates all the little things children can give thanks for. From everyday activities like reading and bathtime to big family meals together and special alone time between parent and child, Todd inspires readers to remember all of life’s special moments. The perfect book to treasure and share, around the holidays and throughout the year.

Two Turkey Books I Love

Run, Turkey, Run! written by Diane Mayr, illustrated by Laura Rader

I have never pulled this one out for a storytime and not had an absolute ball with it. The kids love it. I use a turkey puppet with this story and he is absolutely beautiful. The kids love yelling, “Run, Turkey, Run!” to the puppet. Spoiler alert: We have a happy ending for the turkey, and while this story involves hunting a turkey, there are no weapons featured.

The summary, from Amazon:

The perfect picture book for the holiday, this hilarious twist on the traditional Thanksgiving feast features Turkey as he hops from hiding place to hiding place to avoid ending up as the main course.

With Thanksgiving only one day away, can Turkey find a place to hide from the farmer who’s looking for a plump bird for his family feast?
Maybe he can hide with the pigs . . . or the ducks . . . or the horses . . .
Uh-oh! Here comes the farmer!
Run, Turkey, run!

Turkeys (Animals on the Farm: Blastoff Readers. Level 1) by Kari Schuetz

I’m on a mission to read more nonfiction in my storytimes. If your storytime is completely about turkeys, why not read a nonfiction book about them? I learned some things from this book and kids will too.

The summary, from Amazon:

Unlike those in the wild, farm turkeys are round, plump, and unable to fly. Their heavy bodies keep them in their pens where they are safe and sound. Young readers will gobble up this fact-filled book about turkeys on the farm.

Photo labels visually define glossary terms and other important words. Picture glossaries offer visual support. Featured speech bubbles call out animal sounds. Sidebars identify names for males, females, and babies. Labeled future boxes list favorite foods. Table of contents, glossary, index are also included.

One Other Book I Love

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

Finally, perhaps not in 2020, but most years many Americans spend Thanksgiving watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. I work in New York City so I like reading this book whenever I do a class visit for kids learning about the city and state (and there are tons of other awesome New York storybooks out there – that’s a post for another time). This book discusses the history of the floats used in them and their original designer, Tony Sarg. But it’s another book to read for Thanksgiving that kids might not already be familiar with.

The summary, from Amazon:

2012 Robert F. Sibert Medal Winner

Winner of the 2012 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award

Everyone’s a New Yorker on Thanksgiving Day, when young and old rise early to see what giant new balloons will fill the skies for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Who first invented these “upside-down puppets”? Meet Tony Sarg, puppeteer extraordinaire! In brilliant collage illustrations, the award-winning artist Melissa Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer Tony Sarg, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America—the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Parade.
I know storytimes, if they are taking place, are virtual this year, but I hope you enjoy, or are able to use this as a resource for an at-home storytime with your own children.