Nickommoh! – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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.

NICKOMMOH! A Thanksgiving Celebration

Written by Jackie French Koller, illustrated by Marcia Sewall

Published by Simon and Schuster, 1999

Ages: 5-10

Themes: Native Americans, Thanksgiving, Narragansett Indians, harvest time, social life, customs, Rhode Island

First Lines/Synopsis:

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. 

                     NIKOMMOH!

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.

Resources/Activities:

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.

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32 Responses to Nickommoh! – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Boy were we linked. I stood in the library with this book in my hand and chose Squanto’s Journey instead. Glad I did, as we both shared similar perspectives. I did read this book and loved the historical fiction. The Native American Indians certainly played a significant and peaceful role in our earliest history. Love your choice.

  2. Enjoy your first Thanksgiving! I can’t believe all the things that have happened since you arrived. Is there a story in there? What a great book and I’ll look it up. Cheers!

  3. Patricia Nozell says:

    A lovely choice to learn about the true meaning of Thanksgiving, Joanna. I hope your first Thanksgiving is as special as the celebration described in the book.

  4. Another traditional cracker of a story. Where are you all finding these treasures? Enjoy your first Thanksgiving! Are you doing the cooking? That sounds huge!

  5. Joanna says:

    Thanks, Catherine. What a joy to live near a great ENGLISH library again! Thank goodness I am not the main chef for 30! But I shall try and add some European delicacy to the buffet!

  6. Jo Marshall says:

    Thanksgiving is the beginning of so many holiday traditions, it’s good to remember how it all began. It’s must be fun to view our culture through the lens of anthropology – we’ve absorbed so many of others’ into ours, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish where our traditions originated. But you can bet they didn’t begin in the US – except the Superbowl, perhaps. Thanks for the nice review. Hope your Thanksgiving is fantastic!

  7. Jo Marshall says:

    Thanksgiving is the beginning of so many holiday traditions, it’s good to remember how it all began. It’s must be fun to view our culture through the lens of anthropology – we’ve absorbed so many of others’ into ours, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish where our traditions originated. But you can bet they didn’t begin in the US – except Superbowl tailgate parties, perhaps. Thanks for the nice review. Hope your Thanksgiving is fantastic!

  8. Have a lovely feast (keep away from the canned cranberry-relish!). I like the idea of building a class model of the celebration, nice!

  9. I am sure your first Thanksgiving will be just as memorable as mine was. (although mine hosts would not remember much *wink*) .
    An interesting book, as I am always keen to learn about cultures and celebrations, especially before visiting a country or place. Which reminds me, we may I hope, meet again, in early February!

    • Joanna says:

      Yes, I, like you, love reading about the history before and while I am visiting somewhere. We are off to see the movie Lincoln today, which should be enlightening.

  10. clarbojahn says:

    I love historical fiction and this one sounds right down my alley. Especially with TG right around the corner. Will look for this.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Joanna. Hope you enjoy it. 🙂

  11. Thank you for sharing what looks like a very important book at the perfect time of year. Definitely going to look this one up!

  12. Joanna says:

    It’s a great picture book to balance with some of the funnier Thanksgiving ones, Julie.

  13. I had no idea that a kind of Thanksgiving was a normal part of Native American culture. What a cool book. As for enjoying your first Turkey Day, I say dive in to the food as well. That means lots of turkey and pumpkin pie.

  14. Rhythm says:

    Wow! This looks like an awesome book! I like the way they gave things away. That’s a great way to give thanks for our abundance. I love Thanksgiving! All the fabulous smells make me drool a lot. And there’s always someone willing to throw a tennis ball. I hope that you enjoy your Thanksgiving, too!

  15. Cathy Mealey says:

    Nice authentic PPBF selection Joanna!

    My advice for your first T’giving is wardrobe related. Pants with a forgiving waistline are a must, as well as shirt sleeves that can be rolled up while washing dishes. Enjoy!

  16. Carrie F says:

    Wow, I really love that idea of giving away your extra stuff on Thanksgiving! I may need to make that into a family tradition. 😉

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving, Joanna. Don’t forget to save room for pie!

  17. What an excellent choice, and it goes so well with Pat’s, Joanna! I’m so glad to have some books to add to our list that tell about the real origins of this holiday! Thanks for sharing, and I hope you completely enjoy your first Thanksgiving celebration!!! 🙂

  18. Great choice! It has a great lesson about Thanksgiving. Have a nice first Thanksgiving!

  19. Joanna…have a beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving…so glad you will get to experience a ‘traditional’ feast here. 😉 Love the book…as I said on Pat’s post, I am partial to Native American stories…it’s so important for kids to learn how things were before…and the rich and valuable heritage that has all but disappeared.

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