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Thanksgiving books for kids to feast on

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2001

"This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story'' (HarperCollins, $15.95, ages 3 to 8) by Laura Krauss Melmed is a tapestry of culture and cooperation told in counting rhymes that are fun and easy to digest, even after dessert.

In Mark Buehner's rich pumpkin-and-blue oils, Wampanoag Indian and Pilgrim children enjoy preparing for the harvest meal.

"3 in the garden, pulling up some roots - turnips for the pottage pot and parsnips for the soup."

Melmed's inventive counting rhymes are set within Buehner's textured illustrations, creating nice harmony among layout, art and text. As an additional treat, the artist has hidden a surprise Thanksgiving guest in every picture.

Searching for other, less-obvious surprises, along with counting and sorting, add to a child's reading experience.

"The Know-Nothings Talk Turkey: An I Can Read Book'' (HarperTrophy, $3.95, ages 4 to 8) by Michele Sobel Spirn, with drawings by R.W. Alley, is a silly outing with a group of friends who misinterpret everything someone says to them and everything they say to each other.

Boris, Morris, Doris and Norris have many misadventures together.

They are confused about a holiday called Thanksgiving. Morris wants to cut red paper hearts.

"That's Valentine's Day," Doris tells him.

They also are confused about what to do on Thanksgiving.

"Boris and I can carry the turkey in the parade," says Doris, but the friends can't find a parade. Doris knows that you should "serve a turkey," but they think it means to have the turkey as a dinner guest. So they set out to find a turkey to eat with them, instead of for them to eat.

Even though they misunderstand each other, one thing these friends do understand is that they like each other.

Franklin the turtle's parents are sad, because his grandparents can't come to Thanksgiving dinner this year. In "Franklin's Thanksgiving'' (Kids Can Press, $10.95, ages 4 to 8), Franklin is sad, too, but he thinks of a way to make the holiday special.

"Franklin liked everything about Thanksgiving. He liked eating pumpkin-fly pie and cranberry jelly. He liked making cornucopias and corn-husk dolls. But most of all, Franklin liked having his grandma and grandpa come for dinner. It was the family tradition, and Franklin could hardly wait."

Brenda Clark's expressive and warm illustrations in primary colors follow Franklin through his week as he plans a surprise for his parents. He invites the Moose family to spend their first Thanksgiving in Woodland with his family. His mother invites the Bear family, and Father has a surprise of his own.

"On Thanksgiving morning, Franklin got up early to help with dinner. He stirred soup and shucked corn. Then he set the table for nine.

"Franklin's father counted the place settings. He shook his head and reset the table for five."

"Franklin's Thanksgiving" is a delightful story, written by Sharon Jennings and based on characters created by Paulette Bourgeois and Clark, (also available in paperback from Scholastic Press at $4.50).

A new edition of "The Story of Thanksgiving'' (HarperCollins, $14.95, ages 7 to 10) features Robert Merrill Bartlett's 1965 story with stylish new illustrations by Sally Wern Comport.

The story tells how the Pilgrims endured their long, difficult ocean voyage from Europe. During the harsh New England winter, many became ill and died. The next spring, visitors from the Wampanoag tribe showed the settlers new crops to plant.

"Like the Pilgrims, the Wampanoags had a tradition of celebrating at harvest time. Chief Massasoit brought ninety men with him to Plymouth. They gave the Pilgrims five deer for roasting."

Comport's excellent use of light and color in interesting period styles brings a fresh perspective to a story often illustrated in more subdued shades.

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