Friday, October 8, 2021

A Thanksgiving Grab & Go

As Thanksgiving season approaches, I'll be featuring some of my favorite picture books that emphasize gratitude. Here at PBT, a Grab & Go Book is one that has such rich content it requires little prep before using it in a group lesson. Today's  book describes the 20-year Thanksgiving tradition of a family in New York State in which over 200 friends and family are invited to celebrate in the woods.  

Picture Book: Thanksgiving in the Woods
Author: Phyllis Alsdurf
Illustrator: Jenny Lovlie
Summary: From the point of view of a young boy, this story builds with emotion as he prepares for the Thanksgiving tradition his grandparents have established.

His parents are excited too. Everyone gathers their outdoor clothes, some musical instruments, and treasures that make the season's rituals all the more pleasing. They drive a long way and finally meet up with Grandpa. The grandson climbs into the cab, and they're on their way to set-up for the feast and fun. 

They arrive at a clearing where cousins, aunts, and uncles are already busy preparing for the crowd to come. Bales of straw and wooden planks for makeshift tables are unloaded. A bonfire is prepared for lighting. 

The family gathers for a quick breakfast the next morning, anxious to get to the woods. 

Upon arrival, the kids start scrambling for kindling. Everyone needs to help with the preparations. A tractor arrives with a stately pair of grandparents in tow along with some other guests and pots loaded with foods for the feast. Hundreds of folks begin arriving with more food and a spirit of gratitude and anticipation. 

When the time is just right, all gather and sing the song Simple GiftsPlates are piled high. The children have built a special fort for their own smaller Thanksgiving in the woods. 

The festivities end with a huge circle of singing around a warm bonfire. The young narrator joins in with his recorder. Marshmallows are roasted amid the glow of the smoky fire. Yum! The days' experiences linger as the evening comes to a close. Folks pack their gear and head to nearby cars or homes. 

The boy and his immediate family make their way back to his grandparents' house, full of good food and marvelous memories.  From behind he hears a few voices around the fire still.

'Tis the gift to be simple.
'Tis the gift to be free.
'Tis the gift to come down 
where you ought to be. 

It's a perfect ending to a woodsy Thanksgiving tradition.

Hanna’s Comments: This is a secular view of an annual holiday that is grounded in faith for so many. It's a celebration of community, hospitality, and joyful feasting which are all important rituals and sacred practices in most faith communities. The song that is sung is an old Shaker hymn. The score for "Simple Gifts" is included in the back. Consider singing it together as a part of your program. 

Original Publisher & Date: Sparkhouse Family, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: I will give to The Lord the thanks due for The Lord’s righteousness… (Psalm 7:17); Give thanks to The Lord for The Lord is good… (Psalm 107:1); They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42); Let us consider how to stir up one another in love and good works, not neglecting to meet together… (Hebrews 10: 24); Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book as a Thanksgiving treat for your faith family.

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