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Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast Hardcover – August 1, 2001
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Ever wonder what the real first Thanksgiving was like? In Plimoth, Massachusetts, sometime in the autumn of 1621, English settlers--known as Pilgrims--and the Wampanoag people shared a harvest celebration that eventually became swallowed up in myth and legend. Giving Thanks is a photographic reenactment of what might have taken place, based on true historical accounts. Starring Resolved White, a 6-year-old English boy, and Dancing Moccasins, a 14-year-old Wampanoag youth, this fascinating story alternates between their points of view to paint a picture of life in America during the 17th century. The two boys are cautiously intrigued by each other's cultures as their respective communities come together in peace to celebrate the gifts of the earth. Compelling photographs by Russ Kendall bring the time alive, while brief text by Kate Waters sets the tone and fills in details. Children who have only read about the first Thanksgiving in textbooks will glean a much more authentic understanding of this powerful historical event. (Ages 5 to 8) --Emilie Coulter
From Publishers Weekly
In the newest addition to their books about children of the 1620s, Kate Waters and Russ Kendall present a reenactment of that first holiday, Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast. Photographs taken on Massachusetts' Plimoth Plantation, a glossary and suggested reading list make this a solid resource.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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In fact, at the end of the book the author, Kate Waters, talks about how the traditional turkey-pilgrim-indian autumn feast is a mythical occurrence. She says that while historians don't know what `really' happened, it wasn't what the present day holiday conjures up in all of our collective memories.
Instead, what we should know is that European fishermen and traders brought plague that killed whole villages. And that it was just a coincidence that there were any Native Americans at Plimoth (alternate spelling of Plymouth) on the day there was to be a harvest feast, an event that was, in fact, rather a rare occurrence of celebration for the Pilgrims as they did not deem it appropriate celebrate *any* holidays, not even Easter and Christmas. (ho-ho-ho)
Which brings us to the substance of the book when considered for older readers (older tweenies or teenagers perhaps). It is an attractive book to look at. There are pictures of re-enactors in a colonial setting, but it basically centers around a time where all the houses are built and everybody is fat and happy. No Mayflower. No hardship.
And ironically, while the author argues that you won't find the `true' story of life in early colonial times in other books, you won't find it here either because the author's own re-enactors - pilgrams and native americans alike-- are incredibly clean and tidy individuals. Everyone in crisp linen and wool or deerskin. Even the children! LOL
Two Stars. A terrible book for young children. It might hold more interest for older children as the pictures are interesting.
See Amazon's "Search inside this book" feature to judge for yourself.
Example of text:
"I throw the ball but miss the stool broadly. It lands near the feet of an Indian boy who is standing at the edge of the forest. He throws the ball back to me. I know him not but I give him greeting. He answers back in his tongue. I see him surveying our men at arms and the cleared field. I run to tell my friend Bartle, but when we look back, the boy has disappeared into the forest. I wonder why he watches us?
[Note: My children and I suggest you take a look at "The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving" by Ann McGovern.]
It's a photographic and textual historical interpretation of the "first Thanksgiving" as seen through the eyes of a native Wampanoag youth and a "pilgrim" colonist boy. I think it's great for grades 1-4.
It does not purport to tell the whole story of colonization in the New World by Europeans coming over on the Mayflower and other ships, but instead sets out to tell the story of the harvest celebration of 1621 and what may have happened between September 21 and November 9 as based on historical documents. It puts to rest the tired old myth of the grateful pilgrims inviting the friendly Indians to feast. The last 4 pages of the book go into more detail. This section is easily skipped over if it's too much for younger kids, but adults or older kids may find some of the specific historical details interesting and informative ("Squanto's" real name was Tisquantum, Lincoln declared a day of thanksgiving on August 6 1863 and another that November). There is information about the ongoing customs of the Wampanoag people, the traditions among the colonists, how the English (colonists) ate, a recipe, and information about Plimoth Plantation and the historical interpreters.
I give it 5 stars.