I remember going to the library with my oldest child when he was about two years old. I asked the children's librarian if there were any age-appropriate Thanksgiving books that were somewhere between "blatant lies" and "smallpox blankets." She winced.
So how do we navigate a holiday that originated as a celebration of a massacre without either lying to or traumatizing our kids?
Many families choose to focus on gratitude and family, and introduce Thanksgiving as a historical myth. Here is a helpful history about the biggest lies most of us learned about the holiday (I definitely learned the "Pilgrims and Indians" narrative at school).
Instead of perpetuating harmful stereotypes, here are five books that focus on happiness and gratitude - and are written by native and First Nations authors - that are great any time of year.
If you purchase these books through my Amazon links, I do receive a very small percentage of the price. This money goes to feed my kids and I appreciate it!
My Heart Fills With Happiness / Ni Sâkaskineh Mîyawâten Niteh Ohcih by Monique Gray Smith
This dual language picture book celebrates the joyfulness in small moments and serves as a
reminder to parents and kids alike to focus on moments that bring happiness.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Tracy Sorrell
From the viewpoint of a member of the Cherokee Nation, this book brings a modern perspective to gratitude for both the big and the little things in life. It includes a glossary of Cherokee words for additional depth.
Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Wab Kinew
From start to finish, this book is a celebration of the stories of Indigenous people throughout time, in both Canada and the US. Your little hero is bound to be inspired by the stories of figures such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price, and more.
Wild Berries by Julie Flett
Celebrating the connection that we all share with the natural world, this book is also a dual language title, written in both English and Cree. Spend the day picking wild blueberries with Clarence and his grandmother. Meet ant, spider, and fox in a beautiful woodland landscape, the ancestral home of author and illustrator Julie Flett.
Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk
This title by Inuit author Celina Kalluk celebrates the ancestral connection to the natural world, and emphasizes on respect and love for the earth and all its inhabitants in a lovely bedtime poem. A sweet book, indeed, and great for bedtime. Baby-loving toddlers will love it, too.
Looking for more books like these or a selection for older kids? Here are links to more resources available. Be sure to check your local librarian for even more great options to share with your littles.
- Native American Children’s Literature Recommended Reading List (PDF download) for preschool through high school
- American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) "Best Books" lists has tons of options for all ages
- Kids and Teen Books by Indigenous Authors and Illustrators from the Seattle Public Library (some repeats from this list)
And if your child is school-age and their school still does a whitewashed history, this is a great resource with sample letters to send the administration to effect change. Please say something, especially if you're a white parent.
Have you read any of these?
If you live near me, all except Go Show the World are available through the San Diego Public Library -- read more about using the public library system. They'd also be great additions to holiday wishlists to support those authors!