I am about to celebrate my very first Thanksgiving. Am I going to ease in gently, you ask? Why, no! After all, my initiation so far into New York life has included 2 funerals, a hurricane and a Nor’easter, so why start in the shallow end for Thanksgiving? I shall be celebrating with around thirty of my friend’s extended family….. think style, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” level of celebration. If I am not too stuffed, I may blog about the experience next week! Naturally I have been researching the history of this holiday in the best resource section of the library – picture books, and today’s PPBF recommendation takes us back to the roots of the celebration and is a follow up to last week’s suggestion.
Written by Jackie French Koller, illustrated by Marcia Sewall
Published by Simon and Schuster, 1999
Themes: Native Americans, Thanksgiving, Narragansett Indians, harvest time, social life, customs, Rhode Island
Kauntantawwitt, the Creator, is pleased with his people. They have cared well for his gifts of Corn and Bean and Squash…. The Creator’s gifts have been harvested, dried, and tucked away in auqunnash in the bosom of Earth Mother… It is time now. Time for the people to come together, together to give thanks.
Many many generations before the pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving, the Native Americans of the Plymouth area celebrated the harvest during a feast called, NIKOMMOH, which means, “give away” or “exchange”. At these gatherings people would give away anything of theirs that was extra; they’d give to widows and orphans and others in need, and the more someone gave away, the more they were respected. The style of the early settlers Thanksgiving celebrations were pretty similar to this native festivity. The book describes a typical Narangansett harvest celebration as it had been performed since before the arrival of the first pilgrims in New England. The author’s poetic prose creates strong scenes of the annual harvest gathering with families coming from villages far and near to construct sweat lodges, eat turkey, beans, berries and sweet cakes, as they dance and sing beneath the stars. I would say this falls into the historical fiction category, though it reads more as nonfiction to me. The illustrator grew up on Rhode Island and uses her deep knowledge of the Narragansett tribe and to depict strong ancient patterns and traditional images i scratchboard and gouache, of this first American holiday.
Why I like this book:
I’m an anthropologist so have a penchant for books about traditional cultures. I feel this would be a very useful book for any unit on Thanksgiving (or Native Americans), as although it focuses on one tribe, I do believe it is representative of the native celebration the early settlers would have encountered and which inspired them. On can tell from the details in both text and artwork that very serious research has been undertaken by both author and illustrator giving a real authentic feel to the story. There’s an informative author’s note in the back of the book, along with an essential glossary of the Indian terms and their history.
The author dedicated this book to a member of the Narrasansett people and to her tribe, who reside and resided in present day Rhode Island. She also gives thanks to a/the Tribal Historian of the Narragansett Indian Tribe for contributing to her research.
The detailed double-paged illustrations will need to time for adults and children to fully appreciate them.
A replete wonderful resource page of lessons, activities, quizzes, language and math activities etc on thanksgiving and Native Americans, here at Teacher Vision.
Make a class model of this celebration.
To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books. Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays badge in the right sidebar.