As Thanksgiving approaches, everyone will be talking about the Pilgrims who settled in the new world. But how much do your children actually know about the Pilgrims?
Below I have reviewed nine different children’s books about the Pilgrims. These books are focused on the voyage the Pilgrims made on the Mayflower from England to the new world, the Pilgrim’s lives in Plymouth, and the first Thanksgiving feast.
Young readers will enjoy learning about the Pilgrim children who lived a very different lifestyle than most of us live today. And the grownups who share these book with children may learn a thing or two themselves – I know I certainly did!
Note: For more Thanksgiving activities your kids will love, see my Thanksgiving Activities for Kids page.
Pilgrims Of Plymouth by Susan E. Goodman
This book from the National Geographic Society uses simple text and real photos of actors in period dress to describe the Pilgrims’ life in the new world. Young readers will enjoy the lively photographs showing everyday life for both grownups and children in Plymouth. The book tries to bring history alive for young readers, and ends with the statement that “the Pilgrims were real people just like us.” This would be a great book for preschoolers.
The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern
A wonderful introduction to Thanksgiving for preschool and early elementary children, this book gives an accurate historical account of the events leading up to the first Thanksgiving. Children will be fascinated by the hardships endured by the Pilgrims on their long voyage to the new world and in setting up their new homes. They will be intrigued to learn that the first Thanksgiving lasted a full three days. And they will enjoy the beautiful illustrations that accompany the clear text.
. . . If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern
This book is part of the If You. . . series from Scholastic, and I am a big fan! I have read several books from this series (a second one is reviewed below) and I think I end up learning as much as my kids do when we read them together. This book goes into detail about the Pilgrims’ reasons for wanting to leave England, their unsuccessful attempt to travel on a boat named Speedwell, their successful journey on the Mayflower, the challenges the Pilgrims faced in the new world, and how the Pilgrims ultimately survived and thrived in their new home. The book is organized around a series of 48 questions that include “What would you eat and drink on the Mayflower?”, “Was it a safe voyage?”, “What were the first laws the Pilgrims made?”, What was one of the biggest problems in Plymouth?”, “What kind of furniture did the Pilgrims have?”, and “What happened to the Mayflower?” This book is most appropriate for kids in first grade and above due to the extensive text and limited illustrations.
If You Were At The First Thanksgiving by Anne Kamma
This is another book in the If You. . . series from Scholastic. Compared to “…If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620,” this book only briefly touches upon the Pilgrim’s voyage to the new world. Instead, this book focuses on life in the new world and it goes into great detail about the first Thanksgiving feast. The book is structured around a series of 49 questions such as “Were Pilgrim parents strict?”, “Who was in charge of the cooking?”, “Were there enough tables and chairs?”, and “Why didn’t the Pilgrims serve pumpkin pie?” I was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned while reading this book. Young history buffs will surely be fascinated with the information shared about Pilgrim and Indian life at the time of the first Thanksgiving. This book is most appropriate for kids in first grade and above due to the extensive text and limited illustrations.
Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage by Plimoth Plantation with Peter Arenstam, John Kemp, and Catherine O’Neill Grace
This book provides a very detailed description of the Pilgrims’ journey aboard the Mayflower. It cites first hand sources for information, including quotes from William Bradford’s text Of Plymouth Plantation. The photos for the book were taken when a crew of 26 trained role players, called interpreters, dressed in period costume and sailed the reproduction ship Mayflower II. The book goes into great detail about the disparate groups of people on board the Mayflower, the reasons for the Pilgrims’ journey, and the provisions they brought with them on their journey. There is a map showing the journey of the Mayflower from Great Britain to the new world. This would be an excellent book for kids ages 8 and up.
The Story of the Pilgrims by Katharine Ross
This book explains in relatively simple language how the Pilgrims left England due to their religious beliefs, how they sailed across the Atlantic, and set up a community on the new continent. It explains how an Indian named Squanto came to visit them and showed them how to get enough food to feed themselves through the winter. The book ends by describing the Thanksgiving feast shared between the Pilgrims and the Indians. This book is appropriate for children ages 3 to 7.
The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall
This is a wonderful history text that will be most enjoyed by children ages 6 to 10. The book is written in the first person, with the first perspective being that of “the Pilgrims.” The Pilgrims explain in good detail who they are and why they have chosen to leave England and settle in America. They describe the hardship of the voyage across the Atlantic and how they set up their governance structure in the new land. The Pilgrims celebrate the births of new children and mourn the deaths of nearly half their members. The next part of the book is told from the perspective of “the menfolk.” They men describe their daily routine and the work they do to get the settlement up and running. They describe how an Indian named Squanto befriended the Pilgrims and helped them find food. The next part of the book is told from the perspective of “the womenfolk.” The women describe their days and the chores they are responsible for. They describe the few possessions the Pilgrims brought with them from England and how they strive to make the things they have last as long as they can. Then the book switches to tell the story from the perspective of “children and youngfolk.” They tell us what it was like to be a child in Plimoth during the time of the Pilgrims, and what responsibilities young children had in the community. The back of the book includes a glossary with definitions for words that may not be familiar to young readers.
Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl by Kate Waters
This book features real photographs of a child interpreting and portraying the role of a real pilgrim girl named Sarah Morton. We get a bit of background information about Sarah, and then young readers have the opportunity to follow Sarah through her day as it likely was on November 12, 1627. We see how she got dressed and learn about Pilgrim clothes. We watch Sarah tend to her chores, which include making pudding and setting the silverware for a meal. She feeds the chickens and milks the cows while talking to her friend about how much she misses her deceased father. We watch Sarah take writing lessons with her new father and we share her emotion when a ship arrives with new visitors to their settlement. Finally, we watch as Sarah settles down to sleep at the end of the day. This delightful book will be enjoyed by children ages 4 to 9.
Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters
Like the book about Sarah Morton reviewed above, this book features real photographs of a child interpreting and portraying the role of a real pilgrim boy named Samuel Eaton. We get a bit of background information about Samuel, and then young readers have the opportunity to follow Samuel through his day as it likely was on July 16, 1627. This particular day is one Samuel has been looking forward to, for it is the first time that he will be helping with the rye harvest. Samuel wakes early in the morning with excitement, and we get to watch him put on his Pilgrim clothing. Then Samuel does some of his chores, including fetching water, checking his snares for any animals that may have been caught, and fetching firewood. Then Samuel and his family eat before he and his step-father head out for the harvest along with a neighbor. Samuel’s job is to gather and bind the rye after it has been cut. After harvesting the rye, Samuel stops to gather some mussels for the evening meal. Eventually, Samuel falls into bed completely exhausted from the day’s work. This delightful book will be enjoyed by children ages 4 to 9.
More Thanksgiving resources
More Thanksgiving posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Books about Thanksgiving
- 20+ turkey crafts and activities
- Thanksgiving do-a-dot printables
- Thanksgiving Printables Pack
- Thanksgiving coloring pages
- Thanksgiving Sudoku
- Turkey feather spelling activity