When I first moved to the U.S. as a child, the celebration of Thanksgiving was of course completely foreign to me. But the idea of setting aside an entire day to spend with family and friends, recounting all of the things for which we are thankful, resonated with me from the start. Who doesn’t like to be reminded of all the good things that happen in one’s life? It doesn’t matter if you will celebrate with a parrillada (as my family does), the traditional turkey, or pernil this season; what is important is that you are able to enjoy the singular perspective this holiday offers.
For me, part of the joy of motherhood is passing our family’s traditions on to my son. And passing them on with the help of books only enhances our bond, as we sit closely together to enjoy a story and discuss what it means to each of us. These are the things that I hope he will remember as he grows into a strong, optimistic adult. I hope that your family enjoys the books below, and that as you read them with your own children, you all find even more things to be thankful for, and to celebrate!
(Note that all of the books are available in English, Spanish, or bilingual editions, making them perfect for sharing with both the English and Spanish readers of the family!)
Happy Thanksgiving! —Adriana
Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora, Illustrated by John Parra
I am personally thankful to have been offered the opportunity to translate this wonderful book, as I love its simple yet poignant reminder to be thankful for even the smallest things in our lives (something that children are particularly gifted at doing). I am also a fan of John Parra’s gorgeous, colorful illustrations—for which he received a Pura Belpré Honor—that help to enhance the book’s message. The back of the book includes an author’s note encouraging readers to talk about the small pleasures in their lives for which they want to give “Gracias/Thanks.”
A Gift of Gracias by Julia Alvarez, Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal
Spanish edition: Un regalo de gracias: La leyenda de la Altagracia
This book’s English and Spanish editions are available as e-books only, though you could always go to a reseller to obtain one of the remaining hard copies if that is your preference, or simply check it out of the library. Whatever format you decide to read it in, the story of Nuestra Señora de Altagracia (or “Our Lady of Thanks,” as Alvarez translates her name), carries a worthwhile message about being thankful for the bounties we receive, and about how hard work can sometimes help us to improve our own luck. This story of the Dominican Virgin Mary also includes a nod to Taíno culture and the island’s original name in the form of an old Indian character named Quisqueya, who plays a key role in Alvarez’s retelling.
Celebrate Thanksgiving Day with Beto and Gaby by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy
Spanish Edition: Celebra El Dia De Accion De Gracias Con Beto Y Gaby
Part of the publisher’s “Stories to Celebrate” series, available in both English and Spanish, this hybrid book offers an illustrated, fictional Thanksgiving-themed cumulative story that celebrates togetherness, followed by an informative section about the holiday with complementing photographs. The non-fiction section does a particularly good job of merging culture and history to explain the holiday’s universal appeal, and the many ways in which people celebrate it.
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, Illustrated by Erwin Printup
Spanish Edition: Gracias Te Damos
This Thanksgiving classic offers an adaptation for children of a traditional Iroquois ceremony called the “Thanksgiving Address,” which gives thanks to Mother Earth and all of the natural elements for providing us with all that we need to live and thrive in this world, such as the warmth of the sun, the light of the moon, and the shade of the trees. An inspirational book that crosses cultural boundaries to remind us to be thankful for all that surrounds us, each and every day. Striking illustrations of natural landscapes only add to the book’s message about the beauty and blessings found in the natural world.