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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell (Harper Collins, 1999). 

I'm going to be sharing several Thanksgiving books that I found at my local library over the next couple weeks.  I'm starting off with a popular book that, while well meaning, is quite problematic at times.

First of all, the good:  The illustrations are lovely and I like that they show a diverse range of children and multiculturally mixed families.  It's the story of a classroom learning about the first Thanksgiving and putting on a play.  The history that is taught is where it gets problematic.  The author refers to the Native Americans by their tribal name, the Wampanoag, which is great.  However, other than that, she portrays the whole situation as peaceful and caring between friends. Of course we want to promote sharing and kindness among children, but rewriting history to do so is not justifiable. 

One line that jumped out at me was: "Michiko was thankful that she and all the other Pilgrims were greeted kindly by the Wampanoag people, who shared the land with them." Saying that the Wampanoags "shared the land" with the Pilgrims is twisting the true history and making it seem like it's ok to just steal other people's land. I might still read this story to a child just because of the illustrations, but rewording or skipping the problematic passages.

Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature has a good critique of the book here, which also has the author's response.

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