Giving Thanks: the 1621 harvest feast; 3 out of 5 stars #bookaday

Giving Thanks: the 1621 harvest feast book cover

by Kate Waters; photographs by Russ Kendall
Scholastic Press, New York, 2001
ISBN: 978-0-439-24395-7
Description: 40 p. : col. ill. ; 24 x 29 cm.
Dewey: 394.2649
Subject: Narrative nonfiction; Thanksgiving traditions
Interest Level: 2-4; Reading Level: 3.5
Lexile measure: 460
3 out of 5 stars

Summary from jacket flap: “Sometime between September 21 and November 9, 1621, the English colonists, whom we call Pilgrims, and the Wampanoag people shared a harvest celebration. That meal has become known as the First Thanksgiving. This is the story of what may have actually happened during those days, as told by Dancing Moccasins, a fourteen-year-old Wampanoag boy, and Resolved White, a six-year-old English boy. Photographed in full color at the Plimoth Plantation, this fascinating reenactment will let readers experience the time when English colonists settled on the rich and fertile land of the Wampanoag people.”

Evaluation: What makes this story unique is that events surrounding the 1621 harvest feast are told from two different points of view – a Wampanoag boy and an English boy. The narrative moves forward by flowing through the alternate viewpoints.

Photographs accompany the story and show recreations featuring actors in period costume. The author and photographer appear to have worked with the staff of Plimoth Plantation to gather information and recreate the photographic scenes.

While the two narrators in the story are based on historical people, the narrative thread of the story is fabricated on the supposition of the author. The author indicates this in the opening which states, “this is the story of what may have happened during those days.”

The back of the book includes a great deal of additional information about the 1621 harvest feast, as well as information about the reenactment. There is also a glossary and a list of further readings on the subject.

This is an interesting look at the story behind the “first Thanksgiving” that attempts to show both the Native Americans and English in a positive light. It would make for an interesting classroom read-aloud for grades 3 and above. To bring more factual information into the read-aloud, the additional information at the back of the book should also be shared and discussed.

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