Title: Mary’s First Thanksgiving
Author: Kathy-jo Wargin
Illustrator: Robert Papp
Audience: Ages 4-8
Summary: Mary has just come to America from Ireland. The other children at school are excited about the approach of Thanksgiving, but Mary doesn’t think she has much to be thankful for. She misses her friend Elizabeth and her old home. Life in America is hard, and her family is very poor. Mary’s father tells her the story of the pilgrims and their hardships and thankfulness to God. The story inspires Mary to feel gratitude and to share the story with potential friend Hannah.
Literary elements at work in Story: The story-within-a-story format draws the reader in to remembering the history of the pilgrims, their celebration and gratitude to God. The illustrations reinforce the format by depicting scenes from the story as Mary’s father is telling it. The importance of the five kernels for theme is communicated by the focused illustration of them as well as by having Mary decide to tell Hannah the “story of the five kernels.”
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story?: All the characters, even the pilgrims and native Americans, seem to have an Anglo Saxon, 21st century appearance. Even the characters’ hairstyles evoke a highly stylized look. Since the pilgrims and Native Americans are shown the way Mary is picturing them as she is listening to the story, it makes sense that her Irish background would influence her perspective on ethnicity. However, that perspective does not explain blown-dry hairstyles for poor early American settlers.
Theological conversation partners: Mary’s father teaches Mary, through the story, that if we really focus on what God has done for us and gives daily to us, then it is impossible for us not to find an abundance of blessings even in a difficult life. The story of the five kernels gives Mary and her family a systematic way to look for and name the many blessings that surround them.
Faith Talk Questions:
- At the beginning of the book, how does Mary feel about her new home in America?
- Why isn’t Mary excited about the pie Mrs. O’Connor has brought?
- What did the five kernels remind the pilgrims about?
- What are some things Mary’s parents are thankful for?
- What does Mary decide she is thankful for?
- What will Mary tell Hannah at church on Sunday?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Anne Rankowitz.
Mary’s First Thanksgiving by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.