Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

Laurie Halse Anderson, Author

Matt Faulkner, Illustrator

Aladdin Paperbacks, 2005, Historical Fiction

Suitable for: Ages 5-10

Synopsis:  “You think you know everything about Thanksgiving, don’t you?…How the Native Americans saved the Pilgrims from starving…How the Pilgrims held a big feast to celebrate and say thank you…Well, listen up.  I have a news flash…  We Almost Lost…Thanksgiving!”    Laurie Halse Anderson brilliantly took a piece of little-known history, and wrote a humorous and relevant story for children.  Matt Faulkner’s illustrations are colorful , expressive, detailed and fun.

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale was born in 1788 and lived in Newport, New Hampshire.  She was the mother of five, a writer, the first female magazine editor, and the composer of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  She was dignified, smart, stubborn, and outspoken.  Her power was her pen and she could be quite persuasive.  She loved Thanksgiving and wanted the entire country to celebrate it on the same day.  With her pen, she wrote magazine articles about making the fourth Thursday in November a national holiday.   She wrote letters to politicians, and to four presidents,  Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, to no avail.  With the Civil war raging, Sarah felt even more strongly a national day of Thanksgiving could help bring the country together.  Once again, she picked up her pen and wrote President Lincoln.  He said yes, and in 1863 President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday.  It may have taken 38 years, but Sarah persevered and ultimately saved Thanksgiving.  Thank you, Sarah!

Sarah Hale proved to women that they could make a difference.   There is a very informative “Feast of Facts” at the end of the book that sheds more light on the traditions that grew up around Thanksgiving.  Sarah continued to write until 1877, and passed away in 1879, before her 90th birthday.

An excellent book for parents, teachers and librarians.  The author reminds us that children today have a great deal of influence.  “They can write to newspaper editors and government representatives, petition community leaders, and lobby Congress.  Pick up your pen.  Change the world.” 

Activity:  Parents and teachers may want to create a gratitude tree at home or in the classroom.  This may be easily done by taking a tree branch, sticking it into a flower-pot and filling it with sand/soil.  Make template leaf patterns out of colored paper, cut them out, and ask children to write what they are grateful for on a leaf.  This could lead to a good discussion at home or in the classroom.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

17 thoughts on “Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

  1. Wow! I am learning so much about “Thanksgiving”. This sounds and looks like such a fun story.
    In 2009 Hubby and I travelled to New York (our first time) for two reasons. To see “Simeons Gift”, a musical play from the book of the same name written by Emma Walton Hamilton and her Mother Julie Andrews, and secondly to see what it was like to experience “Thanksgiving”, as we don’t celebrate it down here. We so enjoyed the pomp and splender of the parade followed by a festive dinner of thanks, at a friends home. We would love to do it again someday, but I never knew the real story behind it.
    Thankyou Pat for sharing it.


    • Diane, I am fascinated that you travelled from New Zeland to NYC to experience Thanksgiving in the states. At the end of Laurie’s book, is a 4-page “Festival of Facts,” that talk about the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football games and so on. Ironically, Thanksgiving has been celebrated worldwide since the 1500s. Glad you liked the book. – Pat


  2. This sounds really terrific! Add a resource idea and I’ll add it to the Perfect Picture Book list even though it isn’t Friday! Given that it has educational back matter, there must be an idea or two you could use!


    • Susanna, tt is terrific book. I grabbed it at the SCBWI conference and knew I would share it. Somewhere I read the Laurie Halse Anderson is a descendent of Sarah Hale, but lost my source and left it out. Will add the additional information and let you know. – Pat


  3. Pingback: Giving of Thanks…Ephesians 5:4 | Jlue’s Weblog

  4. This book is a curriculum staple here in Massachusetts, and it is one of my daughter’s favorites! The students complete an exercise about gratitude, and also an exercise on ‘creating’ a holiday to celebrate something they feel passionate about. As a mom and I writer I loved the strong messages about the power of the pen, and the ability of women to make a difference!


    • Cathy, thank you for commenting. That wouldn’t surprise me since it has been out for a number of years. I felt the strongest message in the book was about the power of the pen and what one person can do. Thanks for giving me some ideas. – Pat


    • Stacy, Have been gone all day, it was fun to return to all your comments. Loved this book. Are you talking about your skills — the power of the pen — to move along your project. I have one of those too. – Pat


  5. This is fascinating, Pat! I knew that it was Lincoln who had made Thanksgiving a national holiday, but had no idea of the story behind that. Good for Sarah! Talk about persistence and belief in one’s goal. That the book is written by Laurie Halse Anderson is a bonus.

    This does indeed sound like a good book to share in classrooms, as Susanna and Cathy have suggested.

    I’ve just checked our province-wide library system, and four small-town libraries have this book, so I’ve requested it. I likely won’t receive it before Thursday, but I know I will enjoy it when it does arrive in my library branch.

    I plan to celebrate American Thanksgiving (since I was in a hotel room for Canadian Thanksgiving), and will think of Sarah with gratitude.


    • Beth, I also read somewhere that Laurie was a descendant of Sarah Hale, but couldn’t confirm it. It may have been buried in the info at the end, or I read it elsewhere. Thought you’d find that interesting. I love that you’re celebrating with us. Will think of you with gratitude! — Pat


  6. Laurie Halse Anderson is a very versatile author, isn’t she? I love finding out little known historical details about common events, and can see this as a super classroom resource. What an amazing woman, this Sarah!


    • Joanna, indeed she is versatile. This was an early book. As I commented to Beth, somewhere I read she was a descendant of Sarah Hale. But, couln’t verify it, so I left it out. For me, this is about the power of what woman could do through writing. You would love this book — the illustrations and style are very humorous! — Pat


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s