As Thanksgiving rolls around this week, I’m reminded of one of the more confounding paradoxes of my previous career as a children’s book editor: that despite the natural opportunity for kids’ books to tie into the holiday, I could never, ever get a Thanksgiving title to work.
After all, Thanksgiving seems like an easy sell. The story of the Pilgrims makes a perfect subject for picture books, as do the themes of thankfulness, family, and togetherness that Thanksgiving celebrates. You’d think, too, that parents would need a book for the holiday, not only to explain things to toddlers, but to keep them seated and quiet for five minutes! And from the Macy’s parade to Black Friday, Thanksgiving has always been about buying stuff—so why not books?
Yet, despite multiple attempts to publish books on Thanksgiving and the annual effort to market books for the holiday, I never saw a Thanksgiving book that sold really well. Instead, the best performers seemed to skirt the holiday and focus more on the general season, like Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona’s Harvest or Richard Michelson’s and Mary Azarian’s Tuttle’s Red Barn.
So, if anyone has any ideas why these books don’t work, or better yet, how to make a Thanksgiving book a success, I’d love to know. Because I’d like to think that for the most American of holidays, there must be a successful way to share it through a book. Any thoughts?