Inside: Our November haul of books includes a hilarious Thanksgiving thriller, a poetry collection to tickle your funny bone, a book to make you cry, and our favorite books about family, harvest, giving thanks, and Thanksgiving. Updated for 2021.
It’s almost the end of the year! Did you have a look at your last New Year’s Resolutions yet? Are you crossing things off with a satisfied grin or wondering what happened? If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to read more with your kids, then there is still plenty of time to cozy up on a couch and get lost in the adventure together.
November is a great month to celebrate reading, Native Americans (it’s a Native American Heritage Month), Thanksgiving, turkey, Colonial America, Fibonacci numbers (Fibonacci Day is Nov 22), bread (Homemade Bread Day is this month), Veteran’s Day, elections and voting, friendships, kindness (World Kindness Day), and family, cranberries, pies, being thankful, good Samaritans, and picture books (that’s right – November is picture book month!)
Our fall haul of books includes a hilarious Thanksgiving thriller (The Great Thanksgiving Escape), an uplifting tale to inspire you to chase your dreams (Anything is Possible), a poetry collection to tickle your funny bone (Don’t Bump the Glump), a book to make you cry (The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans), three exciting biographies, and one philosophical saga of a barnacle (Barnacle is Bored). We’ve also sprinkled in some of our favorite books about family and Thanksgiving throughout.
Let’s dig in!
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. It means that I get commissions from qualified purchases.
1 – I Love it When You Smile, Sam McBratney (Author’s Day)
November celebrates a picture book month and author’s day. I think we all can agree that some picture books are so magical, they nourish our children and become part of who they are. Everything by Sam McBratney falls into such a category. (Did you know that Guess How Much I Love You sold over 30 million copies?) His books are made to be read over and over again.
In I Love it When You Smile, Little Roo is having a bad day. No matter what his mother tries to do to cheer him up, it doesn’t work. Finally, she gives up and heads down the hill to find something to eat. And on the way there something happens… You can be sure that the book ends with Little Roo smiling ear to ear. You and your kids will smile too.
This adorable story is funny and heartfelt and irresistible. I’ve read it hundreds of times, and I still laugh at the irony as well as the great message that sometimes you just have to let a bad mood be until you can find some laughter to chase the blues away.
2 – Lillian’s Right to Vote, Jonah Winter (Election Day)
If you think a book about voting couldn’t be anything but didactic and boring, you would be wrong. Lillian’s Right to Vote is a fun, vibrant, and sentimental book that brought tears to my eyes. In a comfortable everyday life, it’s easy to forget that voting is a right that our forebears fought and died for. Many people think that voting is a bother, that it doesn’t make a difference, or that it’s just another thing to add to an already busy schedule.
This book can be used to open a discussion about why the right to vote shouldn’t be taken for granted. Talk with your kids about the power of voting, how the process works, and why every voice counts. Columbus City Schools put together a fun voting activity pack for grades 3-5.
3 – How This Book Was Made, Mac Barnett (Picture Book Month)
If your kids ask you how picture books are made, get this giggle-inducing read. From inception to the inevitable many drafts (which “is a useful part of the writing process”), from unreasonable editorial demands to working with a book illustrator (“it took the illustrator a very long time to draw all the pictures”), this book helps kids (and adults!) understand everything that goes into the creation of a beautiful book – plus high seas pirate adventure and traffic incidents in between to enliven the action.
Vivid and humorous artwork is by Adam Rex, whom you might remember from Are you Scared, Darth Vader? After reading this book, your kids might even decide to write a book of their own.
4 – Let’s Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali, Ajanta and Vivek (Diwali)
We’ve got every book about Diwali that our library offers, and this one was the winner. In this story, two kids from Chicago travel to India to experience Diwali, a festival of lights. Historically, it started as a celebration of the harvest and over time became India’s biggest and most important annual holiday that celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and the start of a new year.
With this book, you will learn what is Diwali, how it’s celebrated, why new pots and pans are bought and sweets are made. You’ll also discover what Diwali has to do with brothers and sisters. This is more of an information book, so don’t expect too many re-reads and borrow it from the library.
5 – When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree, Jamie L.B. Deenihan
Anyone who has ever received an unwanted present knows exactly how this protagonist feels at the start of the story. She has a reasonable birthday wish for a robot dog and a remote control car, but instead, she gets a lemon tree!
What should you do when your grandma gives you a lemon tree? You will have to read the story for yourself to find out the heartwarming thing that the girl ends up doing.
The happy, beautiful drawings are rich with yellow and capture the essence of the story, which is, of course, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This book can be used as a lesson in overcoming disappointments and turning obstacles into stepping stones. It’s one of our favorites.
6 – Umbrella, Taro Yashima
Fall is a great time to read about rain, puddles, and umbrellas. When I decided to get every picture book with the word “umbrella” in the title from the library, this one stole the show. And it wasn’t just that Taro Yashima’s artistic style is so unusual and striking: there was something sentimental about the story that I couldn’t shake off.
No matter how many times I read this book, whenever I get to the page where we learn that the girl – we got to know through the story – is all grown up now and doesn’t remember this incident at all, I’m reminded of how fleeting childhood is. As kids get older, there will be more and more experiences that don’t include mom and dad, more memories that have nothing to do with us. We can spend our days so obsessed with the details that we forget the big picture. Today our kids are playing with toy trucks, and tomorrow they will be living across the country buying rain boots for their own toddlers. So enjoy them while you can!
7 – Marie Curie, Demi (Marie Curie’s Birthday)
Marie Curie is best known for discovering radium and coining the term “radioactivity.” But she is also responsible for breaking many gender stereotypes. She is the first woman to win the Nobel prize and the first person to win the Nobel prize twice (in physics AND chemistry). She is the first woman to receive in Ph.D. from a French university. And the first female professor at the Sorbonne.
Writing a kid-friendly book about such a fascinating and complex life is not easy, but Demi does it with great skill and enthusiasm. We get a picture of a hard-working lady who is undaunted by the challenges of motherhood, poor working conditions, and her husband’s tragic death. We learned she even drove and operated a mobile x-ray track during the First World War! Through beautiful artwork and elegant narration, Demi manages to turn all the different facts of Marie Curie’s life into an inspiring story about an extraordinary scientist.
8 – Anything is Possible, Giulia Bellini (National STEAM/STEM Day)
Not only does this story have a great message – anything is possible – but it also has drama, a fast pace, and relatable characters (one a dreamer, the other a skeptic). Watching the birds fly, the sheep dreams of possibilities and decides to build a flying machine, but she can’t do it alone. At first, she has trouble talking her friend the wolf (the skeptic) into helping, but after the sheep’s enthusiasm rubs off on him, they work as a team: drawing plans, making designs, failing, and trying again.
The collaged images by award-winning Italian illustrator Marco Trevisan only add to the readers’ enjoyment. My kids exclaimed, “he uses MATH to make illustrations!” before I even read on the back cover that the illustrator’s university major was mathematics. We love how the images incorporate pages of densely scribbled mathematical equations, while the characters tumble off beyond page margins.
8 – Don’t Bump the Glump and Other Fantasies, Shel Silverstein (International Tongue Twister Day)
“The Zrbangdraldnk has just arrived
And it’s up to me to announce him….
Uh … how do you pronounce him…?”
A Tongue Twisters is a sequence of words or sounds that are difficult to pronounce. Try saying “Zrbangdraldnk” three times as fast as you can. How did you do?
Don’t Bump the Glump is Shel Silverstein’s first published poetry collection. It’s full of imaginary creatures, weird words, hard-to-pronounce names, and wonky color drawings by the author.
“The Slavery Slurm at the first sign of trouble will squiver and squimmer and bend himself double and worgle his elbow up into his ear and pull in his ankles and just disappear.”
If you are looking for a bit of a reading challenge on an International Tongue Twister Day (November 8), try reading Silverstein’s poems. Your kids will love the humor and funny-looking animals.
9 – The Apple Tree, Sandy Tharp-Thee (Native American Heritage Month)
The text of this modern-day Cherokee story is presented both in English and Cherokee, A language spoken only by about 2,500 people in the world today. The author is descended from the survivors of the Cherokee Trail of Tears, the tragic forced removal of Indians from their ancestral lands. But this story is not about tears. It’s about a little boy who plants an apple tree and nurtures it for many years. This story is all about how with time, small things can make a big difference.
Everybody is so busy these days, running around and doing. It might seem like it’s not worth the effort to stop for a small act of kindness, but it can spark a chain reaction. The impact of kind words and small gestures might end up so much more meaningful than we expect. After reading this book, ask your kids how they can put kindness out into the world. How can they be kind to their siblings, to people in the neighborhood, to grandparents, to their friends’ grandparents, to their dog, to bugs, trees, and library books?
10 – Barnacle is Bored, Jonathan Fenske
As they say, life is a matter of perspective. This Barnacle, a marine crustacean, attached to a wooden plunk under the pier, is bored. “Every day is the same. The tide is IN. I’m WET and COLD. The tide goes OUT. I’m DRY and HOT.” Jealously, he observes a fish cruising about. He begins to imagine all the wonderful things that take place in the life of this fish, how it swims with dolphins and plays with plankton. Suddenly though, a bigger fish comes out and gulps it down. “I’m not bored,” says Barnacle.
We think that the barnacle is absolutely adorable. One of my kids even wished he could come and live with us. The text is short, and a large font in speech bubbles is perfect for beginner readers. After reading this book, you can talk to your children about how everything begins with our perspective. And how, when we don’t like something, we can choose to view things from a different point of view and perhaps discover that it changes everything.
11 – The Poppy Lady, Barbara Elizabeth Walsh (Veteran’s Day)
I had to stop and grab a tissue as I read this true story. Picture vivid, glowing oil paintings on double spreads. First, we see young boys leaving for war, and a few pages later, countless white crosses in a huge field of dramatic red poppy flowers. Why poppies? After WWI, they miraculously grew around the battlefields of Flanders of their own accord. It was as if mother Earth wept tears of blood. This is the only WWI American cemetery in Belgium, and it’s commemorated in a poem by John McCrae, a military physician who served in the war.
Moina Belle Michael, the Poppy Lady, has always been a can-do kind of girl. When she saw the drawing of the poppy field and read a heart-wrenching poem, she knew just what to do.
The artwork is absolutely gorgeous. If you’re looking for a great picture book to read on Veteran’s Day, definitely check this one out. All my kids were touched by the story and have discussed it more than once since then.
12 –Elizabeth Started All the Trouble, Doreen Rappaport (Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Birthday)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an American suffragist, social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early Women’s Rights Movement. It’s hard to believe, but just over two hundred years ago women couldn’t go to college or inherit property. Women had to give money they earned to their husbands, wear uncomfortable petticoats that weighed as much as fourteen pounds, and there were no female doctors, politicians, or lawyers.
Lucky for us, there were energetic women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth (her birthday is also this month Nov 26) who fervently believed that women deserved more.
These women organized conventions, made speeches, and many other “unladylike” things. The seventy-two-year journey from the idea to the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote was a long journey. Even though those who started the suffragist movement didn’t live to see the victory, they showed us what it means to stand up for one’s beliefs.
13 – Listen to the Wind, Greg Mortenson (World Kindness Day)
Growing up in a comfortable world of iPads, new sneakers every fall, and reward stickers for math practice, many children rarely spend time wondering what’s like to live in other parts of the world. Even today in Pakistan, millions of kids still can’t go to school. Listen to the Wind tells the moving story of such children.
When Greg Mortenson got lost in the Karakorum Mountain range, the people of the little village of Korphe took him in and cared for him until he was ready to leave. A year later, Greg was back with a plan to build a school for the village. The illustrations for this book are photographed collages made out of scraps of fabric and paper that award-winning illustrator Susan L. Roth found around her house. This illustrative style is a tribute to the people of Korphe, who never let anything go to waste.
14 – Apple Cake: a Gratitude, Dawn Casey
Perhaps one of the most profound and important things we can teach our children is to find gratitude in simple things. The cute little protagonist in this story gives thanks to trees, flowers, bees, sun, and rain. The story’s culmination is the joyful sharing of an apple pie and a celebration of nature’s gifts, family, and love. Perhaps your kids will be inspired by the simplicity of the experience. To be thankful, one doesn’t have to do anything but notice and appreciate.
This gorgeous book is a pure pleasure to hold in your hands. The award-winning Canadian illustrator Genevieve Godbout did a truly remarkable job in creating a visual experience that is fluent, memorable, and incredibly gratifying.
15 – Bear Says Thanks, Karma Wilson
Little readers enjoy books in The Bear series because they are so much fun to read. Today, there are more than one million of Karma Wilson’s Bear books in print. With a wonderful cast of characters, delightful rhyming text, and bright brown, orange, and yellow double spreads, this book is no exception. Bear’s cupboard is empty, but he has some generous friends. In the end, there is a glorious feast, general merriment, and some good stories to share around the campfire.
The book offers a great opportunity to think and reflect on what we are thankful for, the power of choosing thankfulness, and, naturally, the meaning of Thanksgiving.
16 – Parents in the Pigpen, Pigs in the Tub, Amy Ehrlich (Parents Day)
This book is incredibly funny and a delight to read, especially around Thanksgiving. A family of six and their helper live on a busy farm. Day after day, they get up at 4 a.m., do their chores, and live a predictable life. One day, however, someone leaves the pasture gate open, and the farm animals get a glimpse of the life inside the house.
One by one the farm animals move into the house until there is no space for people. “Seems a shame to waste our big old empty barn,” says one of the kids, and before long the animals are living in the house while the people are living in the barn!
After many adventures, everything ends with a Thanksgiving dinner that doesn’t exactly go as expected. Illustrations are by Steven Kellogg, so you know they’re incredibly expressive and funny. We all love this book!
17 – Hooray For Bread, Allan Ahlberg (Homemade Bread Day)
This rhyming book tells the tale of a loaf of bread: from the moment it is baked in the morning until the last crumb is eaten. Mom, dad, two kids, dogs, birds, and even a mouse all enjoy some bread in various forms. Bread, as you might already know, is the most widely consumed food in the world. It’s acquired a bad reputation lately, but not all breads are created equal. When you bake bread at home you control what goes in, and you can choose the best, healthiest ingredients. We make a lot of grain-free bread in my home. It’s so yummy! And making bread with kids is educational and fun. Read it today for a Homemade Bread Day while your bread is baking in the oven.
18 – Giving Thanks, Jonathan London
This enjoyable book celebrates the beauty of the world around us and the importance of giving thanks. I like checking it out from the library about this time of the year and reading it with my kids a few times. The story is simple: a father and son go for a day-long nature walk and say thanks to Mother Earth, Father Sky, Grandmother Moon, Grandfather Son, quail, fox, deer, hawk, and everything else. Why? Because “the things of nature are a gift. And … in return, we must give something back. We must give thanks.”
The oil paintings are rich in fall colors and absolutely gorgeous. Our favorite one is the double spread of the hawk flying over luxuriant forest dressed in the golden glow of autumn.
19 – Strega Nona’s Harvest, Tomie dePaola (Harvest)
November is the season for gathering crops and celebrating the harvest. It’s a great time to trace the origin of the food you eat. Do you know where your apples come from? What’s the name of the farm where your cheese was made? And how far have the vegetables in your fridge traveled to get there? I make a conscious effort to buy local when possible, but even so, my family and I were astonished to find products from all over the world in our kitchen: Australian honey, Russian chocolates, and Ceylon tea.
Strega Nona will teach you a few things about gardening, the Italian language, and magic. But what my kids love most about this book is that Strega Nona never figures out who brings pumpkins, turnips, and other vegetables outside her door at night. Kids, of course, know who it is, and it makes them feel very powerful. The drawings are done in Tomie dePaola’s distinctive style that earned him a Caldecott Medal.
20 – Hubert and the Apple Tree, Bruno Hachler (Autumn Storm)
The journey from cradle to grave is an inevitable part of our existence, but a very difficult topic to discuss with kids. Don’t avoid this topic though, in an attempt to avoid upsetting them. I assure you, your kids are already thinking about this subject, and their imagination makes it far scarier than anything you can possibly say.
Hubert and his apple tree have lived through many years side by side, but one day an autumn storm brings an unpleasant development. Each illustration evocatively portrays the beauty of life and the realities of growing old.
21 – Magritte’s Marvelous Hat, D. B. Johnson (René Magritte’s Birthday)
Today is the birthday of a Belgian surrealist artist, René Magritte, who is famous for his thought-provoking images. I don’t know what you are going to make of this story about him -we’re still trying to decide what we think!
When Magritte went to buy himself a hat, it floated in the air above his head. He spent a lot of time playing with his hat, and when he painted, it was easy. But then he became so engrossed in painting that he didn’t have time to play with the hat anymore, so the hat left and with it Magritte’s inspiration. Don’t worry, it’s not a sad book, but you’ll have to read it yourself to discover the end…
Little bits of surrealism find their way onto the pages of the story. The clear double-sided inserts that change the images are fascinating to study. Use this book to start a conversation about surrealism and continue your research online or at an art museum.
22 – The Great Thanksgiving Escape, Mark Fearing (Thanksgiving)
This is our number one favorite Thanksgiving book. It combines classic slapstick storytelling with delightful illustrations. It’s Thanksgiving, and Gavin is supposed to hang out with the other kids until the turkey is ready, but sometimes you just have to make your own fun. Between the Hall of Aunts (moms), Great Wall of Butts (dads watching a football game), and Zombies in the basement (teenagers staring into their electronic devices), it’s a wonder Gavin and his cousin make it to Thanksgiving dinner alive. Fearing’s humor is absolutely on the money!
23 – Blockhead, Joseph D’Agnese (Fibonacci Day)
In the late 1170s, Leonardo Fibonacci (“Fibonacci” means “a son of Bonaccio”) sat in a schoolroom with other boys doing math. Every problem was too easy for him. He would solve it in seconds and then wonder about “beautiful math questions” such as … “if each bird sang for two seconds, one bird after the other, how long would it take all  of them to sing?”
How did this inquisitive, quick-thinking, unique boy come to be known as a Blockhead? And how did he go from Blockhead to Fibonacci sequence? You will have to read the book to find out. The swirly illustrations by John O’Brien are bright and interesting. Fibonacci spirals and numbers are hidden on the pages of the book for you to find. Celebrate Fibonacci Day by visiting Fibonacci.com (we especially liked Fibonacci in Nature).
24 – ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, Dav Pilkey
Dav Pilkey didn’t have it easy as a child. He had dyslexia, ADHD, and his teacher ripped one of the first books he ever created to pieces, Captain Underpants. If that name rings a bell, it’s because Captain Underpants is now the award-winning, best-selling book series that sold 80 million copies and was turned into a Dreamworks animation movie and Netflix television series. I love to tell this inspirational story to whoever will listen.
In ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, we love the smooth rhyming, humorous plot (Kids save eight fat, little turkeys from being eaten on Thanksgiving day), amusing illustrations, and the idea of not taking things for granted. The story is especially enjoyable to read aloud, but be warned your kids might refuse to eat turkey after reading it!
25 – Turk and Runt: a Thanksgiving Comedy, Lisa Wheeler (Thanksgiving Day)
Do you know what the difference is between a chicken and a turkey? Chickens celebrate Thanksgiving, while turkeys worry about being eaten. That’s right. Thanksgiving is all about eating turkeys, and this means trouble for the fattest, roundest, and juiciest turkey on the Wishbone Farm called Turk. But don’t worry, his brother Runt is here to help (unless he gets eaten first). Get ready for some fancy turkey football moves, graceful turkey ballet, Madame Waddelle’s elegant French swearing, a corn feast, and a whole lot of drama.
You will enjoy reading this hilarious adventure of a farm turkey family as they try to survive Thanksgiving and beyond. My kids say it’s the funniest book about turkey they ever read.
26 – Alma and How She Got Her Name, Juana Martinez – Neal (National Day of Listening)
The National Day of Listening has been celebrated on the Friday after Thanksgiving since 2008, a day to get together with the people you love and listen to the stories of their lives. Everyone has a story to tell. We are often just too busy to listen.
When Alma complains to her dad that her name is too long, he tells her the story of her name, which is linked with earlier generations of her family. This fantastic book beautifully illustrates how we are all a part of our family history. Use this book as a starting point for discussion about your family heritage and maybe even interview a family member or do some family history research together.
27 – Harvest, Kris Waldherr
November, especially the week leading up to Thanksgiving, is a great time to read books about harvest. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many harvest books with exciting storylines and memorable characters (Strega Nona’s Harvest above is an exception). However, I can recommend Kris Waldherr’s Harvest for its spectacular illustrations. In this book, we meet a girl who gathers pumpkins, apples, carrots, and dill in her garden. Each double spread is bursting with orange, brown, and yellow. Read this book this month and put it away until the next harvest.
28 – King Alice, Matthew Cordell
Winner of 2017 Caldecott Medal, Matthew Cordell returns with a fantastic new book about kids’ unswerving determination to fill their days with adventure. If your kids ever started the day by requesting super-sparkly strawberry muffins, you will know exactly what the father in the story is dealing with!
We laughed on every page from the hilarious illustrations as well as the recognition of ourselves in the story. Yep, we have spent many a day moving from one energetic play idea to another with only mealtimes to break up the unbridled enthusiasm, while the house slowly descended into total disarray.
Only a parent is capable of capturing those adorable minute details of a kids’ day at home with parents. One other thing we especially liked about the book is Alice’s homemade book. It often inspires my kids to go and make their own books!
29 – Miss Maple’s Seeds, Eliza Wheeler
Fall is the time to collect, harvest, and preserve seeds to plant the following year. (Pumpkin and pepper seeds are our favorite to save). Miss Maple, however, takes it a step further: she travels the land searching for orphan seeds that got lost during spring planting and takes them home with her to keep them safe till next spring. She scrubs them clean and tucks them in. During the long winter, she passes the time reading, telling stories, and singing.
We love the beautiful artwork, the labeled seed chart, and the idea that everything in the world deserves loving attention and care.
30 – Life on Mars, Jon Agee (National Aviation History Month)
You didn’t think I will forget that November is an Aviation History month, did you? Life on Mars is sure to induce some giggles. A young astronaut travels a long way from Earth to prove that there’s life on Mars. He even brought chocolate cupcakes. Agee’s engaging drawings perfectly capture the spirit of the adventure. My kids love yelling, “he is behind you,” at the hapless hero of the story. The surprise ending is delightfully satisfying.
This month offers a great opportunity to talk about the Wright Brothers, aviators in history, famous aviatrices (who is that?), and more. You can even do an aviation lesson from study.com or check out some ideas for celebrating.