6 Powerful Thanksgiving Books to Help Preteens Appreciate Life

Powerful Thanksgiving Books to Help Preteens Appreciate Life

By this age, many children are more mature in their reading habits and beginning to understand the deeper meanings of life. These Thanksgiving books for preteens will help develop their understanding of gratitude by helping them not take anything for granted.

While most of these books are not explicitly for Thanksgiving, they are great reminders about what really matters.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are also a great time to begin volunteering your time for worthy causes. These books may help point you and your family in the right direction. We hope you enjoy them.

Thanksgiving Books for Preteens

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Due to the sensitive nature of these books, you should check to make sure they are appropriate for your preteen(s). I quite often go to Common Sense Media for their perspective before presented anything to my children or students.

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace

At this point, the “history” of American Thanksgiving has become largely myth and whitewashing. While it was an important event in the history of the United States, it’s probably not what you believe it to be. (Hint: there were no buckles on hats, no cranberry sauce, and not even pumpkin pie!)

This book debunks a lot of those myths while presenting a look at what really happened (to the best of our knowledge) in November 1621. It includes beautiful photographs of a reenactment of “the first Thanksgiving” at the actual Plimoth Plantation.

Most importantly, it shines a light on the way the Wampanoag People were treated by the European settlers, which is a sad truth often entirely ignored during the celebrations of Thanksgiving. Their voices are finally being heard, nearly 400 years later.


Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes and Cozbi A. Cabrera

A book of 16 powerful poems ranging in form but all about gratitude. These poems show people from all walks of life still recognizing the importance of being thankful.

This is the kind of book you’ll want to discuss with your kids before, during and after, as it does deal with some sensitive issues, such as homelessness and mourning.

Overall, this is a very positive book filled with the joyful power of simply saying “thank you.”


Refugee by Alan Gratz

The history surrounding America’s First Thanksgiving is more than a little troublesome. Despite the atrocities later performed in North America, and despite my British friend who told me that England had “kicked out” the Pilgrims, American history always framed the settlers of Plymouth as the first American refugees.

This book explores more modern examples of refugees – Josef, a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany; Isabel, a Cuban girl in 1994; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015.

While I think this book should be read by everyone, you might choose Thanksgiving as the right time for your kids, and have some discussion around the struggles of modern refugees and those potentially faced by Mayflower passengers.


I Am Malala (Young Readers’ Edition) by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick

Many kids in North America don’t think to be thankful for their education. The fact is, there are many people around the world who would love to have the same right to education we enjoy. One of those people was Malala, who nearly died simply because she fought to be educated.

This book, written by and about the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner to date, is a powerful reminder to stand up for what we believe in and not take for granted what we already have.


Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Now also a hit movie, there are so many beautiful lessons to be learned from Wonder.

While it’s not always an easy read as there are some sensitive topics discussed, every middle schooler should experience life through Auggie’s eyes. Auggie’s life is not easy, but he’s still thankful for his family, friends, and supportive teachers.

With lessons in kindness and courage, Wonder is an uplifting read you won’t want to miss.


March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

When discussing books that help teach gratitude, we would be remiss to not include at least one book about the civil rights movement. Written by the recently deceased former Congressman John Lewis, this graphic novel is the first in a trilogy present his own lifelong struggle against oppression.

The book demonstrates the power of nonviolent protest to bring about social change.

Due to the very real struggles presented in this book, of course, there are some moments you and your kids might need to be prepared for, but nonetheless this powerful book should not be overlooked.

Be prepared to want to immediately purchase the second and third books, and get ready for some rich conversations about civil rights, how to continue the fight, and how (if you enjoy privilege as we do) we can be grateful for all we have while using our power to help.


An image of two hands holding a small pumpkin

We hope that you and your children enjoy these amazing Thanksgiving books for preteens. If you have a favourite, let us know in the comments!

If you’re interested in Thanksgiving books for younger children, we also have lists of great Thanksgiving board books and picture books!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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