Written by Mike Allegra
Illustrated by David C. Gardner
Albert Whitman & Company, 2012
32 pages, Ages 6 and up
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The inspiring story of an early-19th-century woman who supported her family, made a name for herself and gave us all an opportunity to give thanks each November.
Allegra’s debut opens with Gardner's watercolor-and-pencil illustration of a family of six gathered around a turkey-laden table, hands joined, faces reflecting their sorrow: They had just buried their father, yet their mother, Sarah Josepha Hale, insisted on giving thanks for their blessings. Amusing and perfectly chosen anecdotes highlight the qualities that made Hale such a success—curiosity, thirst for knowledge and determination. Her husband, David, encouraged her writing, which would become the family’s means of support after his death in 1822. The writer of the first anti-slavery novel as well as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” she became a household name as “editress” of two ladies’ magazines. Hale used the magazines to encourage women to think. Soon, she became someone whose opinions were taken seriously by her readership, including those about celebrating Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Four presidents refused her yearly requests, but Abraham Lincoln and a country embroiled in a Civil War needed to take a day to count blessings, and so Thanksgiving was made official. Gardner nicely combines vignettes and double-page spreads, his colors reflecting mood, while lots of period (and humorous) details will bring readers back for another perusal.
Readers will look forward to more from this talented author, who has penned a perfectly paced, rousing biography.”
School Library Journal
“More of a biography about Sarah Josepha Hale than a holiday book, this well-researched, engaging read-aloud offers youngsters a glimpse into the lives of women and families in 19th-century America as well as to the history of how Thanksgiving became a national holiday.
More commonly known as the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Hale was actually a feminist before her time, despite her lack of formal education. When she became widowed with five young children, she wrote to support her family. Her book of poems and first novel led to a position as an editor at Ladies’ Magazine.Unlike other magazines of the period, this publication ran articles on history, science, and schools for women. Hale went on to take a job as an “editress” at Lady’s Book, making it “the most widely read magazine in the country.” As her name and opinions gained popularity, she became an untiring advocate for making Thanksgiving a national holiday. She wrote editorials and petitioned four different presidents over the course of 36 years, until Abraham Lincoln finally proclaimed the last Thursday of November a holiday in 1863.
Generous, full-spread watercolor illustrations add humor and colorful details about costume, home, publishing, and political life during this period. Libraries that own Laurie Halse Anderson’s Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving (Simon & Schuster, 2002) will still want this fresh, accessible offering.”
Read Caroline Leavitt’s interview with David about illustrating Sarah Gives Thanks!