In the days and nights leading up to Thanksgiving, there's not much that kids can do but wait. Sure, with patience comes a delectable feast of heaping portions—and dessert with whipped cream to boot—but it can still be incredibly tough to count down the days before dinner. To help your child prepare for the big event, or to teach a young one about the merits of the holiday, we've gathered 11 books that can be read in anticipation of Thanksgiving.
As you wander through pumpkin patches and apple farms throughout November, and watch the leaves turn colors outside, prepare your chefs in the making with these humorous, heartwarming, and charming reads. There's a story about a little girl who's finding it hard to write a list of things to be thankful for, another tale about a pilgrim family arriving in the New World on the Mayflower, and a different scenario about a turkey who is trying to avoid becoming the main course. In other words, there's something for everyone at the kids' table.
Through the laughs, lessons, and illustrations, you and your kids can ride out the Thanksgiving wait with each fun read. By the time the holiday arrives, you'll be glad you had these books to help with patience and preparation.
The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks by Jan Berenstain
This series has been a classic for generations, and this story about how the family reenacts the first Thanksgiving exemplifies its longstanding sentiment for togetherness and charity. Your kids will also love how autumn looks in Bear Country, too.
Amazon Review: "Berenstain Bears books always have a good message to share, and include everyday situations that people can relate to. When I was teaching kindergarten and [first] grade, I shared these books with my kids frequently. I think that children ages 3 to 8 are a great audience, and older kids will enjoy reading the books." — Jobi
Thanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks! by Margaret Sutherland
This book, which is punctuated by beautiful illustrations, asks kids to think about what they're thankful for beyond the excitement of having lots of food to eat and family to play with. It'll help you share a message of gratitude with your kids and encourage them think of something to be thankful for on the big day.
Amazon Review: "We have owned this great little book for about four years now, and both of my kids have enjoyed it thoroughly. It has a great message about being thankful for everyday things in our lives (family, pets, even hot chocolate on a cold day), and the illustrations are warm and inviting. It's a great length for a toddler to sit through, and the pictures offer plenty of details to discuss. We first purchased it when my now 6-year-old was 2, and now that she's in first grade, the language is simple enough that she can very proudly read it to her younger brother.
The illustrations also feature a lot of good clues for beginning readers who are taught to use pictures to help them figure out unfamiliar words." — Amy McGhee
Where Is Baby's Turkey? by Karen Katz
This interactive lift-the-flap book by best-selling author Karen Katz will introduce young children to the holiday with a fun game of search. As you read the story, allow your child to play along with finding a turkey stuffed animal by answering the clues out loud.
Amazon Review: "This is an adorable search-and-find book for babies and toddlers. Each page has a flap for the child to lift and see if the cuddly turkey the baby is looking for is there, and of course it doesn't show up until the end. Each 'item' under the flaps leads to the final dinner. The illustrations are bright and cute and perfect for babies and toddlers." — Heidi Grange
The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh
This book was first published in 1954, but it's still a favorite for parents who want to teach their children about the history of the holiday using beautiful illustrations and a rich narrative. The story starts aboard the Mayflower and follows a pilgrim family as they build a new life for themselves in the New World and meet Native Americans along the way.
Amazon Review: "Alice Dalgliesh did a fine job of describing the pilgrim story through the eyes and to the ears of young children. The art work by Helen Sewell is engaging and distinctive. Sewell also illustrated The Little House on the Prairie and other children's books. My 6-year-old granddaughter enjoyed my reading the book to her, and afterward she read it again for herself." — Bert Turner
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey! by Lucille Colandro
This understandably joke-filled read will have your children laughing at all the things an old lady could eat for the holiday—including a football. By the end of the story, your kids will understand why she was so hungry.
Amazon Review: "The best book of this series! The rhymes are really fun to read aloud, and kids love this one. We started a tradition to read it every Thanksgiving to all the kids in the family, but it's fun to read at any time. My son loves to finish the rhymes now that we've read it a few times. It's silly, a bit nonsensical, and a perfect light-hearted read for children of all ages." — Tiffany May
Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey by Herman Parish
Many parents probably remember reading Amelia Bedelia books as kids, and this title continues the beloved series with the same clever turns of phrase and funny hijinks. In this story, Amelia Bedelia agrees to work on the school Thanksgiving play, but things don't go as smoothly as she planned. This will be a fun story to teach kids about perseverance and maintaining a good attitude.
Amazon Review: "My granddaughter fell in love with Amelia Bedelia in kindergarten, and I believe she has read all of the books in print. This one, Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey, is just as funny as the others. Little ones catch on to the 'mistakes' Amelia Bedelia makes in her understanding of words and double over with laughter. If you have any little ones to read to, or who read themselves, they'll certainly enjoy this book." — Mary Beth
Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes
This comforting read, which is intended for young readers, discusses the importance of giving thanks not only on Thanksgiving but every day, too. By being encouraged to notice the little things that make them happy, like fresh air and learning in school, kids can get in the habit of practicing thanks regularly. There's also a place in the book where kids can write down the things that make them feel thankful.
Amazon Review: "What I like most about this book is its rhythm—it reminds me of Goodnight Moon in its lovely flow of words. For example, 'Thank you for play dates, for swings and for slides,' with the next page continuing, 'Thank you for hopscotch and piggyback rides.' The things to be thankful for are simple and heartwarming. The illustrations are very animated; there's a lot going on in each picture. It's easy to spend time pointing out all the things that are happening on each page. I also like the low perspective, from the point of view of a child.
As for its message, this should be a book that's read all year round." — Cairo Commuter
Happy Thanksgiving, Curious George by H.A. Rey
This classic character gets into the holiday spirit in a story all about the day's festivities—the food, the parade, and the family. But, as usual, Curious George lives up to his name and gets into some trouble. Kids will love seeing what happens using the tabs on each page.
Amazon Review: "This is another wonderful Curious George flip book! My 4-year-old loves having the side tabs to flip to his favorite pages. I love the bright pictures full of detail to engage in conversation with him. Each page discusses a little of the traditions we engage in as a family around this holiday, and I think it helps my son understand what's coming up by reading this prior to the holiday." — Laura
Junie B. Jones: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (And Other Thankful Stuff) by Barbara Park
This New York Times best-selling series is about a first grader named Junie and her many silly and charming experiences. In the Thanksgiving chapter book, the titular character and her class are vying to win a feast by writing a list about the things they are thankful for—only Junie isn't all that thankful for much. This story will show your kids the importance of compromise and good spirits.
Amazon Review: "Great book. Junie B. Jones is so relatable. My daughter laughs out loud as she reads and always wants to read more. I wish there was a neverending supply of new Junie B. adventures. She is like a part of our family now." — Sherry Lenhardt
Thankful by Eileen Spinelli
This short and colorful rhyming book about the importance of being thankful is yet another way to teach young kids to appreciate the small beauty they can uncover in their everyday lives—from the things they notice in the neighborhood to the traditions they find at home.
Amazon Review: "This book not only creates an opportunity for parents and children to talk about the subject of what to be thankful for, but it also helps them look at all the people in their community in a different way. It helps the reader see the lives they touch. This is a beautifully illustrated story that is fun to look at and to read. I can see this being a family favorite." — Nora Stlaurent
Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr
This comical story, which has the clever illustrations to match, follows a poem about a turkey who finds various hiding places to avoid ending up on the Thanksgiving table. While it's best for parents not to think about the fate of the turkey too much, your kids will likely get a laugh out of the chase.
Amazon Review: "This is a great book for pre-K kids. My two toddlers love it. My 3-year-old loves to yell 'Run, turkey, run!' with me every time it comes up in the book. It's not too long either, which makes it a nice read for parents." — Shannon M.
Ed. note: Reviews have been edited for clarity.