Book Review: Sarah Gives Thanks

Rating: ★★★★☆

How did the American tradition of Thanksgiving come to be established? In the 1820s, 200 years after the Pilgrims’ celebration, different states observed the holiday on different days, and most southern states didn’t observe it at all. That was when Sarah Josepha Hale turned her considerable talent and persistence toward establishing a national holiday. She wrote about it in her magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, she wrote to governors and other leaders, and she wrote an annual letter to the President asking him to establish a day of giving thanks. She ended up writing to five Presidents: Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and finally Lincoln.  In the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln finally agreed with Mrs. Hale, and on October 3, 1863, Thanksgiving became a national holiday.

This excellent picture book tells us more about Sarah Hale, showing how this remarkable woman badgered her brother into passing on his college education to her during his breaks.  She continued her independent education in the company of her beloved husband, who encouraged her to publish her writing. Then when he died, she gave thanks to God for having known him – and courageously worked to support her family. Being left alone with five children in a time when women didn’t work outside the home was a desperate crisis. But through hard work and persistence she became a successful “editress,” as she insisted on being called, and then went on to establish a tradition that has shaped our culture for 150 years.

This story stands out among juvenile biographies for its interest and accessibility.  Appealingly and skillfully illustrated, it’s visually appealing, and the pictures carry a large part of the story.  The writing is smooth and evocative, and really highlights the humanity of the person in focus. It’s an excellent read.

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Publication Information: Allegra, Mike. Sarah Gives Thanks. Gardner, David (Illustrator). Albert Whitman & Company. 2012. ISBN: 080757239X.
Categories: 4 Stars, Age 04-08
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Posted on November 22, 2014


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