Thanksgiving is a quintessentially serious holiday about surviving hard times with courage and fortitude, but we shouldn’t undervalue the potential of humor. I know from experience that laughing kids learn best. My focus for these Thanksgiving books is counting blessings, kindness, and family time. From witty to suspenseful to how-to and activity books, this list has something for every kid and adult.
Since I became an avid picture book collector, I’ve seen many changes, and thankfully, they’ve been for the better. A decade ago, funny and entertaining books about Thanksgiving were few and far between. I once spent three hours in Barnes and Noble and didn’t find one humorous book about turkey or Thanksgiving.
“…but do you have any funny books about Thanksgiving?” we asked the grey-haired lady behind the desk. She gave us “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie.” She meant well, and likely it was the only thing that matched our request, but we were so bored! We fell asleep in the carpeted aisle between math help and IT resources.
Happily, this is not the case nowadays. In this list, we have compiled a list of our favorite Thanksgiving-themed books to read with your children, and all of them have an element of humor.
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Thanksgiving Books to Make Your Kids Laugh
Cranberry Thanksgiving, Wende and Harry Devlin
This heart-warming story rose above the rest for so many reasons…I’ll just give you a taste. In the small and remote town where the winds are cold, a diverse group of people gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving, but not everyone is what they seem…
Here are some of the reasons this book is special:
(1) It paints a beautiful picture. “Maggie darted about like a black-stockinged bird … at the edge of a lonely cranberry bog in New England, and the winds were cold at the edge of the sea.”
(2) It makes you think about the wisdom of the expression; not all that glitters is gold.
(3) It makes you feel something – surprise, delight, and a sense of things coming full circle. Our favorite element is a role that the song Sixteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest plays in the story. I’ll leave the delight of this discovery to you and your kids.
(4) The illustrations are captivating and represent a very unique perspective – literally and figuratively.
(5) It inspires you to do something: bake Grandmother’s famous cranberry bread (recipe in the book) or go say something nice to the people you may have neglected, taken for granted, or unjustly dismissed in the past.
Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’, Eileen Spinelli
“Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’ was always a big day,” but this year Grandpa is as hungry as five elephants! Moreover, the Thanksgiving turkey ends up in the pond and mashed potatoes explode! It’s an action-packed Thanksgiving adventure! Author Eileen Spinelli – a mother of six, and a recipient of numerous literary awards, including Best Children’s Book of the Year – shows her keen understanding of family dynamics and sends a message that humor (and gratitude) can make everything better.
We’ve been reading this book for years, and it’s still one of the most read Thanksgiving books in our house. It’s enough to say “I’ll get the pickles!”, and my kids dissolve into a puddle of giggles. You’ll just have to read the book to find out why.
The Great Thanksgiving Escape, Mark Fearing
The Great Thanksgiving Escape is, in our opinion, the funniest Thanksgiving book EVER. 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!
‘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 it was called. 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 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 eating 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!
Fried Feathers for Thanksgiving, James Stevenson
Author James Stevenson is a famous New Yorker cartoonist, Caldecott medal winner, and author/illustrator of over 100 books. We love all his books. In particular, we think his stories about a young witch by the name of Emma are exceptionally cleverly-written and comically illustrated, and Fried Feathers for Thanksgiving is no exception.
Not your traditional story of giving thanks, It is rather an ode to friendships, teamwork, and wit. Matched against two far more experienced (and wicked) witches, Emma saves Thanksgiving with the help of a good plan and some good friends! They are lots of surprising twists in this story, and your kids will giggle in delight reading about cranberry storms and self-enlarging turkeys (all slights of hand, by the way, no magic required).
Turk and Rant: A Thanksgiving Comedy, Lisa Wheeler
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.
The Best Thanksgiving Ever! Teddy Slater
In The Best Thanksgiving Ever!, everyone is thankful for a different reason. “Tillie gives thanks for the blue sky above. Grandpa is thankful for Grandmother’s love. Dwight’s full of thanks for the cool autumn weather. Aunt Biddy gives thanks that the whole clan’s together…” However, they do have one thing in common…they are all turkeys! What do turkeys eat for a Thanksgiving feast? You will have to read the book to find out. The comical artwork by award-winning illustrator Ethan Long adds zest to the story.
Turkey Trouble, Wendi Silvano
This turkey absolutely refuses to become a Thanksgiving dinner and cooks up a plan to disguise himself as a different farm animal. After a series of unfortunate (but funny) costumes, he finally settles on the pizza delivery boy outfit and delivers a pizza to the farmer, and it was the best Thanksgiving ever! The story is utterly silly but charming, and my kids love a happy ending.
Parents in the Pigpen, Pigs in the Tub, Amy Ehrlich
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 lives inside the house.
The farm animals decide to 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!
Thanksgiving Books to Make Your Kids Think
Giving Thanks: More Than 100 Ways to Say Thank You, Ellen Surrey
Learning to say thank you is a crucial part of healthy child development, and with Giving Thanks, you will find an abundance of ideas to get started. From making a sibling laugh to writing a note to the soccer coach, from picking some flowers for the baby-sitter to writing a poem for Dad each day is an opportunity to show our appreciation for people we love.
We especially liked a spread that deals with feelings and emotions titled If you could give people a feeling, what would you give them? The boy in the story wants Mom to feel relaxed, Dad – pleased, his best friend – magical, and his coach – proud. It’s a great tool for building empathy and developing social-emotional learning.
My tips for getting the most out of this book: Don’t attempt to read through the whole thing in one go. Instead, choose one small section at a time and turn it into a meaningful discussion. Try to relate to your kid’s answers as genuinely as possible, maintain eye contact, and smile. Your kids will love the snuggles, your undivided attention, and your encouraging interest in how they think.
Duck and Hippo Give Thanks, Jonathan London
While Hippo has good intentions – to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and make the yard nice and tidy – his sternness and mental rigidity prevent the other animals from having fun as they try to help him. Before the book is over, however, Hippo’s mind will open and he’ll be rewarded with wonderful new experiences. His Thanksgiving table will be full of non-traditional dishes like Chinese egg rolls, and he will even jump into the pile of leaves – scattering them all over the yard!
My kids’ favorite part is Hippo’s pivotal decision to switch to the fun side of things (and also that page when his butt got stuck in the shopping cart). For many moms, the best part might be the realization that in an effort to create a perfect Thanksgiving for our families, we at times become over-rigid, trying to get everyone to stick to the script. This book inspired me to add Chinese egg rolls to the Thanksgiving table this year, which my kids are delighted with. And I’m planning to go leaf jumping with them after the dinner…(although with how this weather is going, it might be more of a snow fight than a leaf jump).
Bear Says Thanks, Kara 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.
The Secret of Saying Thanks, Douglas Wood
“Here is the secret, if you’ve not already guessed it… the heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time.”
I love the large-format illustrations and evocative language (“on our small, blue planet, sailing among the stars…”), but unfortunately, the book is boring. I was determined, however, for my kids to hear the important message of the book, “We don’t give thanks because we are happy. We are happy because we give thanks,” so I came up with a way to turn this book into an enjoyable experience. You might decide to do it the same way.
Each page starts with a description of a place where one might find oneself, and I asked my kids to lie down, close their eyes, and imagine themselves in each of those situations in turn – under an old tree, upon a rock, playing tea party, etc. and then I would list different things mentioned in the book and ask my kids to raise their hand if they feel grateful for it – for forest to explore, for cool shade on a hot day, for silence and patience, for choices and challenges.
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.
Thanksgiving Books to Get Your Kids Busy
Thanksgiving Activity Book: Coloring Pages, Word Puzzles, Mazes, Dot to Dot, and More
This one is the most popular with my two younger kids. My toddler goes crazy coloring turkeys, pumpkins, forests, forest animals, trucks, and scarecrows. My six-year-old loves mazes, word searches, connect the dots, find two of the same, and color by number. Give your kids something to stimulate their brain and give yourself a moment of calm while you’re at it.
Thanksgiving Activity Book for Kids Ages 4-8: A Fun Workbook FULL OF Learning, Coloring, Dot to Dot, Mazes, Word Searches, and More!
This one has its coloring pages and word searches of course, but it also has an exciting Find What’s Different section that appeals to my eight-year-old in particular. Moreover, while the ‘connect-the-dots’ activity in the previous book only goes up to 49, this book goes into the hundreds! A great choice for slightly older children looking for a challenge.
Gobble Gobble Mad Libs, Roger Price
If you love Mad Libs as much as we do, you will definitely appreciate this book. It includes 21 stories about preparing and eating Thanksgiving dinner, As well as other holiday traditions, and even Black Friday shopping. More laughs all around!
Thanksgiving Jokes, Uncle Amon
My kids love joke books. Most of the time, I personally don’t find the jokes themselves funny, but they love them like crazy anyway. Kids just love getting together and laughing, and the joke book offers an excuse to do so.
Try-Not-to-Laugh Challenge Book: Thanksgiving Jokes Every Kid Should Know for Turkey Day!
If you are up for a Thanksgiving Challenge, this book will help you have lots of fun (with a splash of competitive spirit). Split into teams and take turns reading jokes and riddles, making faces, and trying to make the other team laugh. Every time the other team laughs, you get the point. Three points, and you’re a winning team. This book is simply the best for Thanksgiving Day.