From School Library Journal
Grade 3–6—Which state claims the first Thanksgiving? Massachusetts may come to mind, but Texas, Maine, Florida, and Virginia all have historical evidence of similar celebrations that predate the Pilgrims' gathering. This account describes the meeting of Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and Native people called the Timucua near what became St. Augustine, in 1565. According to the author, in gratitude to God "for a safe journey and a new land," the explorer "provided a Thanksgiving feast for the Spanish, with the Timucua as guests." In order to lend context, chapter topics include a summary of the world in 1565, a discussion of uncharted lands, Spain in the 1560s, Florida in the 1560s, a description of the Timucuan way of life, the founding of St. Augustine, events on the day of Thanksgiving, and St. Augustine today. Period maps, paintings, photographs of artifacts, and original watercolor illustrations help explain the historical concepts. While many of the period works are informative, the original paintings bear an unfortunate resemblance to coloring-book pages. One illustration caption identifies a Native couple as a king and queen, although it is questionable that the Timucua themselves would have used that terminology. This book is well intentioned and extremely earnest about bringing attention to this seldom-explored historical topic. It might be of interest to people studying Florida history or visiting St. Augustine.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
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Robyn Gioia's story gives us a delightful view of the first Thanksgiving, celebrated in Florida by Spaniards and Timucuans more than a half century before the one in Plimoth. Perhaps even more so than the later one, this event symbolized a new chapter in history, one well worth keeping in mind as we continue to ponder what it means to be an "American." Dr. John McGrath, Boston University Historian, History Channel Commentator