Balloons Over Broadway

For me, when I was a little kid, the thing I really loved about Thanksgiving was watching the parade on tv. We didn’t always have cable when I was younger (that came after we moved off the homestead and gave up the outhouse for modern indoor plumbing. 😂) but we could see the parade on one of the networks. The best part of the parade was the balloons.

Before getting Melissa Sweet’s book, Ballons Over Broadway, I never thought about where those balloons came from, of who made them. That man was a puppeteer named Tony Sarg.

Sarg was quite an inventor. He went through a lot to bring his vision to the parade.

The balloons change a lot. Characters retire and new ones appear. I agree with the author, it would be awfully fun to see some of the vintage Sarg designs make a comeback.

My own kids don’t look forward to the parade. I’ve never made it a point to show them what it is. Maybe today, since we are home we can watch at least part of the magic together. And it is magic, I have no doubt about that.

You can read a great interview with Melissa Sweet on Delightful Children’s Books. She’s a talented illustrator, I just love her collage style.



Nickommoh was the traditional Native American celebration to give thanks for a bountiful year, or at least for the tribes in the New England area.

I liked this book by Jackie French Koller because it explores the history beyond what we are taught as children. The Native American tribe in the New England area celebrated 13 times a year, one for each lunar month. Sometimes the celebrations were really big, like the harvest one that this book talks about.

The illustrations are nice, in a style that shows the tribe’s culture without being cartoonish. The author also uses native words in the book, but I’d never be able to pronounce them if I tried it as a read aloud.

The message of the book is stated over and over: thank you for the gifts of nature. I really liked the explanation of the sharing with others (like widows and orphans.)

All belong to the Sacred Family of the People.

The author’s note has a lot of great information in it as well. I didn’t realize that the “first” Thanksgiving was more like the Nickommoh celebration than our Thanksgiving traditions today. I also didn’t know that the Pow Wow is very similar as well. I always encourage students to read those author’s notes. There is almost always a wealth of knowledge in them.

🥧 Pumpkin Pie 🥧

I am eagerly awaiting Thanksgiving Day. My family will be celebrating at home by ourselves for the first time in years. It’s going to be different, we’re having beef tenderloin instead of turkey but I’m going to make stuffing (my favorite!) and lots of other goodies. The one thing I MUST have though, is pumpkin pie. I know I’ll end up eating the whole pie over the course of the weekend, so this year I found the perfect solution.

It’s a personal size pie!!

Anyway, I have the perfect book to go with this!

The old-lady-who-swallowed types of books all follow a similar pattern. This one has great illustrations to go with it. As the old lady, Grandma maybe, eats she gets bigger and bigger. The ending is really funny:

Thank goodness the kids know about the balloons in the Thanksgiving Day parade, they totally got the joke.

Fried Feathers For Thanksgiving

To continue in the Thanksgiving theme, today I read a fun book by one of my favorite author/illustrators, James Stevenson.

Fried Feathers For Thanksgiving is actually part of a series about a nice little witch named Emma. Emma isn’t good at spells, or potions or flying on a broomstick, but she is good at outsmarting Dolores and Lavinia.

I wanted you to see the style that Stevenson uses in many of his books. He was making graphic novels before graphic novels were cool. The first book in the series is about Emma trying to learn to fly a broom. Once she makes a few good efforts, she realizes that flying might not be her thing, but she isn’t going to let those bullies, Dolores and Lavinia off without a lesson.

In today’s book, Emma has decided to host Thanksgiving dinner with her animal friends. She says they really should invite Dolores and Lavinia, and end up getting tricked into do all of their chores. Emma and the animals get the last laugh and their own Thanksgiving dinner though.

There are a few more books in the series:

I know I have the Valentines book at school, so we will discuss that one in February, but I’m not so sure about the New Year’s book or the beach book. I know I don’t have Yuck! either. My Thrift Books wish list just keeps getting longer and longer.

Turkey Trouble

Poor turkey. It’s the time of year when he’s on the menu as the main course. What’s a bird to do?

The turkey created by Wendi Silvano has a plan. He’s going to fool Farmer Jake by dressing up in ingenious costumes and hiding amongst the other farm animals. His costumes are….almost….perfect, but nothing is working the way he planned, until he tries Plan B and takes Thanksgiving dinner in a whole new direction.

This book is so fun to read with the kids. I pretend to be utterly convinced by turkey’s costumes and they insist I’m wrong. It never fails. We love turkey so much that we will see him again for Christmas:

And just today, while looking for the covers of these two, I discovered a new book!!!

I don’t have this one yet, but I will!

Sometimes It’s Turkey, Sometimes It’s Feathers

Lorna Balian is a really fun author. Rarely do her stories go in the direction that you think they will. Her Thanksgiving story is no exception to the rule.

Old Mrs. Gumm was out looking for mushrooms when she discovers a freckled egg one day in April. She takes the egg home and she and her cat decide to hatch it. They plan to raise the turkey to be nice and fat for a delicious turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

The turkey eats. And eats. And eats. He has a habit of eating everything that that Mrs. Gumm could use to make Thanksgiving even better, but she keeps reassuring the cat that he will be a nice fat turkey. The cat is pretty patient, that darn turkey keeps eating his food!

Finally, the big day arrives and Mrs. Gumm takes the old hatchet and sharpens it. Then she hones it. Then she polishes it. After almost all the other food is done she tells the cat that she will now go get the turkey for dinner.

My more perceptive students said, “wait, it won’t have time to cook,” but most of the kids were surprised to see the turkey sitting at the table with Mrs. Gumm and the cat. Mrs. Gumm hints that the turkey will be even fatter next year, but none of my students believed she’d ever eat him.

As I said, Lorna Balian’s books will surprise you. I don’t own them all, so I haven’t read them all, but her are some of her titles.

‘‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

Today my first graders and I enjoyed some silly turkey books and I wanted to share one by Dav Pilky with you.

I pointed out that Pilky is the author of the very popular Captain Underpants books, which all of my students seem interested in. One little boy did tell me that he wasn’t allowed to have a ‘bad’ book with underpants in it. I had to reply that I didn’t think there were any underpants on the turkeys in our story today.

The story is written to parody the famous C. Clement Moore poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas. The kids get on the bus and head off for a field trip the day before Thanksgiving.

(The teacher appears to be a daredevil driver, the wheels aren’t even touching the ground, and a wheelie?!?!)

The are off to visit Farmer Mack Nugget at his turkey farm.

He has names for the turkeys like Wally, Beaver, Shemp and Groucho. The kids of course fall in love with these fluffy turkeys.

For some reason the farmer doesn’t pause to consider the consequences of telling the kids that the turkeys will be the holiday dinner the next day. Cue the crying emotionally scarred children. The farmer and teacher turn their backs momentarily and the kids take matters into their own hands.

These ingenious kids sneak the turkeys away and while they do make it to the Thanksgiving tables of the kids’ families, they come as guests.

Needless to say, the kids loved 💕 this story. Okay, I did too.

Pilgrim Cat

This is the time of year to be thankful, or at least to express our thanks openly, so I’d like to say how thankful I am for teachers and friends who recommend books to me. A good friend at work told me about a wonderful Thanksgiving book called Pilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock.

I bought a used paperback copy and have shared it with my third grade classes this year.

The story follows Faith as her family crosses the Atlantic on the Mayflower. Faith finds a cat on the ship that she quickly bonds with, and named him Pounce.

Faith and Pounce, along with all the Pilgrims, face a hard journey over the sea. The colonists had to deal with seasickness, poor quality food and fevers before they reached the New World. Faith survives the hardships and she and Pounce join the new community at Plymouth Bay.

I like this story because it does talk about the fear of the Native people, but ultimately the kindness of the Natives shines through.

Faith is devastated when Pounce vanishes the first summer. At the risk of ruining the story, Faith’s friend Squanto discovers Pounce and her new kittens in the woods.

Faith, and all of the Pilgrims, had much to be thankful for that first fall, and the kids thought it was pretty close to what they have learned in social studies. They did point out that the book has turkey being served at the banquet, and we teach them that it was more likely goose or even swan.

And just for fun, here is my favorite result from my Google search for “pilgrim cat”:

Molly’s Pilgrim

With Thanksgiving just a week away, I’ve been reading Thanksgiving stories to the kids at school. Most are either traditional pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving stories or silly ones about turkeys. But one story is about another kind of pilgrim.

Molly is new to her school and sadly, is being bullied because she is an immigrant. Her Jewish family came to America when the Cossacks were terrorizing the Jewish people of Russia.

Molly has never celebrated Thanksgiving before and had never heard of a pilgrim. Her teacher explained that they were from England, and came to the New World to worship in freedom. She then assigns the children to make Native American and pilgrim dolls for a village they will build. Molly is asked to make a girl pilgrim.

When Molly explains the assignment to her mother, her mother insists on making the doll for her. But Molly realizes too late that the doll doesn’t look like a pilgrim, it looks like her mother. Molly’s mother explains that she is a pilgrim. She came to America from the other side to worship freely.

Molly is not happy to show the doll at school, but when she does, her teacher says that’s her mother is right, Molly and her family are pilgrims.

I took this opportunity to ask the kids if pilgrims still came to America today. One vocal young man yelled out, “yes! But now we call them tourists.” (I didn’t laugh out loud, and I just kind of talked around the comment.) The kids were able to recognize that they have classmates who are pilgrims or the children of pilgrims. I think it had never occurred to them that people still come to America looking for a better life.

The Four Gallant Sisters

Reading Hershel of Ostropol yesterday put me in the mood for some fairytales adapted by Eric A. Kimmel. I believe Kimmel is my favorite reteller of old stories. Today I had a few minutes, so I grabbed a book off of the shelf that I had not read before, The Four Gallant Sisters.

This story is described as a combination of two stories by the Brothers Grimm, but I’m not sure which ones. I really enjoyed the story, here’s a quick run down:

The four sisters are orphans and decide to cut their hair, dress like men and learn trades. The oldest becomes a tailor, the second a huntsman, the third a master of sleight of hand, and the youngest a star gazer. They are masters in their trades after their seven years apart, and each has been given a special gift by their trade master. The sisters use their skills and special gifts to find work in a king’s court, still masquerading as men. The king’s mother swears they are women and devises tests for them, which the sisters manage to pass in the most androgynous ways possible. The culmination of the story comes when the king’s betrothed and her four brothers are kidnapped by a dragon.

The gallant sisters rescue them and in the end, marry the princess’s four brothers. The best part of this great story is the end where the King’s Mother was happy with how it all turned out because she was right all along.

I think I’ll read this with 4th grade this year. It’s fun to hear a fairytale where the girls don’t need to be rescued by a prince, but are the rescuers themselves. The illustrations are gorgeous! Tatyana Yuditskaya drew one amazing dragon!