From School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-More of a biography about Sarah Josepha Hale than a holiday book, this well-researched, engaging read-aloud offers youngsters a glimpse into the lives of women and families in 19th-century America as well as to the history of how Thanksgiving became a national holiday. More commonly known as the author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," Hale was actually a feminist before her time, despite her lack of formal education. When she became widowed with five young children, she wrote to support her family. Her book of poems and first novel led to a position as an editor at Ladies' Magazine. Unlike other magazines of the period, this publication ran articles on history, science, and schools for women. Hale went on to take a job as an "editress" at Lady's Book, making it "the most widely read magazine in the country." As her name and opinions gained popularity, she became an untiring advocate for making Thanksgiving a national holiday. She wrote editorials and petitioned four different presidents over the course of 36 years, until Abraham Lincoln finally proclaimed the last Thursday of November a holiday in 1863. Generous, full-spread watercolor illustrations add humor and colorful details about costume, home, publishing, and political life during this period. Libraries that own Laurie Halse Anderson's Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving (S & S, 2002) will still want this fresh, accessible offering.-Barbara Auerbach, PS 217, Brooklyn, NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Sarah Josepha Hale was already a published writer when her husband died, in 1822. To support her five young children, she became a novelist and, eventually, the editor of “the most widely read magazine in America,” Godey’s Lady’s Book. Over time, Hale took up various causes, but, beginning in 1826, she worked to make Thanksgiving “a national festival and observed by all our people.” Each year, she promoted the holiday in her magazine, encouraged leaders to get behind it, and sent a request to the president. Finally, in 1863, Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday. The informative text is clearly written, and the watercolor artwork is fluid and engaging. Indicating the passage of time in a picture book is challenging, but Gardner manages by showing Sarah aging, her children growing up, and a succession of U.S. presidents receiving her written requests. An author’s note and source bibliography round out this rewarding picture book on Hale and her role in the history of Thanksgiving. Grades 1-3. --Carolyn Phelan