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Kids' Books

Thanksgiving Time Offers Fun Reading for All Ages

November 22, 1998|MARIA D. LASO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Familiar characters--Pooh, Mickey, Arthur, Clifford--and newcomers such as the Rugrats celebrate Thanksgiving in print, but other timely tales look past the Pilgrims and even the turkey.

One such book is "Grandfather's Journey" ($16.95, Houghton Mifflin, 1993), Allen Say's account of his family's cross-cultural experience. Writer-illustrator Say, who was born in Japan, focuses on his grandfather's life in Japan and America, but the story could reflect the feelings of any immigrant's descendants.

The work of American folk artist Kathy Jakobsen is a key reason to look for "This Land Is Your Land" ($15.95, Little, Brown, 1998), but the fact that she's illustrating Woody Guthrie's great song lyrics doesn't hurt. Even pre-readers can enjoy this, getting lost in detailed landscapes of all sizes, seasons and regions.

Those set on holiday titles can go traditional or unconventional. Paperback prices ease the budget when a library find becomes a must-have for the home.

"Squanto and the First Thanksgiving" by Teresa Celsi ($4.95, from the nice Steck-Vaughn Real Reading series) gives as fair an account as something so brief can be. Alice Dalgliesh's "The Thanksgiving Story" ($5.99, Aladdin Paperbacks) has been around since 1954; the Caldecott Honor illustrations by Helen Sewell--done in the style of American primitive paintings, but more colorful--probably look familiar to many baby boomers. It's easy reading for ages 5 to 8, but note that the Indians get short shrift.

"N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims" ($6.95, Chronicle Books) focuses on the art but familiar children's author Robert San Souci does his usual fine job with the text.

In Suzy-Jane Tanner's colorful flap book "The Tasty Thanksgiving Feast" (HarperFestival), for ages 2-5, Henrietta Hen is hostess, and every animal brings a dish--but what about the turkey? In this vegetarian celebration, Tom's not the entree, he just brings dessert!

Emily Arnold McCully's "An Outlaw Thanksgiving" (Dial, $14.99) distinguishes itself by being set in 1896 and by being based on a real event, though with some fictional characters. McCully is a Caldecott Medal winner (for "Mirette on the High Wire"), and her watercolor and pastel illustrations are no less impressive and detailed here.

Other titles by McCully include "Picnic," "Little Kit" (set in Victorian London) and "The Bobbin Girl" (1830s Massachusetts).

At $6.95, the oversized paperback "175 Easy-to-Do Thanksgiving Crafts" (Boyds Mills Press, 1996) is a bargain, especially if it keeps little ones busy, and there's enough to keep them out of the way for a whole long weekend. At a big gathering, older kids can supervise. The pages lie mostly flat, for following simple instructions and color guides. Projects, many seasonal, are suitable for all ages and use common materials. The Apple Hot Pad (corrugated cardboard) and Pumpkin Crumber (paper plate) can be used at meal time.

In a newly illustrated edition of "Molly's Pilgrim" ($3.99 paperback, Birch Tree Books), Molly, a Jewish emigre from Russia, learns that it takes all kinds of Pilgrims to make a Thanksgiving. Daniel Mark Duffy's pencil sketches won't keep away young-adult readers, and middle-readers can exercise their imagination.

Eve Bunting's "How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story" ($5.95, Clarion Books, 1988), illustrated by Beth Peck, depicts a sea journey to freedom--this time, refugees from a Caribbean island embark on a dangerous trip. Be prepared to answer questions.

For lighter reading and shorter attention spans, Jack Prelutsky's "It's Thanksgiving" ($4.95, Mulberry Books) might be perfect. Twelve poems cover topics from Daddy's football game to leftovers. Everything goes wrong in Eileen Spinelli's "Thanksgiving at the Tappletons' " ($5.95 HarperTrophy), which makes for suitably silly fun for early readers.

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