Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving


Many children want to know when and where the settlers’ first Thanksgiving celebration took place. Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving, by Joseph Bruchac explains how Thanksgiving came to be and who attended. The story begins with Squanto telling his story,

My story is both strange and true.

Squanto tells how dramatically his life had changed after the “white men” had come. Captains, John Smith and Thomas Dermer had become his friends through trade and shared values of honor and respect. However, after John Smith left, Thomas Hunt was left in charged. Hunt invited Squanto to come dine in his ship. Instead of a feast, Hunt took Squanto captive to Spain.

Our lives were no longer our own.

Squanto was sold in Spain, but through perseverance was able to return to the New World with Dermer. However, Dermer had bad news. When Squanto had left the New World many of his people had died from diseases the “white man” had brought, only two had survived. This news saddened Squanto but he knew that the could no longer worry about them. Both Dermer and Squanto worked together with the surrounding tribes. Squanto also helped the pilgrims hunt and grow crops. In November, when the Mayflower came to Plymouth and the fall had brought a good harvest the pilgrims and Native Americans gave thanks to their good fortune. Squanto was grateful for the foods that he had taught the English to make and had hope for his children. They both prayed that more of these days would come.

Curriculum Connections
Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving would serve as a useful resource to close a lesson on Thanksgiving. Reading it will help students recognize that history describes events and people of other times and places.  This topic correlates to Virginia SOL k.1 b.

Additional Information

  • I am Thankful For… is an activity for lower elementary students. The activity allows students to reflect why Thanksgiving is really important and what are they thankful for.
  • A Pilgrim Conversation is a lesson that provides students with the opportunity to create and correct a conversation with a pilgrim. This lesson incorporates quotation usage and the pilgrims and Indians.
  • Villiage People an arts and crafts activity designed by Disney teaches students how to decorate the table with Native Americans and Pilgrims. This activity allows students to remember the origin of Thanksgiving as they have their Thanksgiving dinner.

Book: Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving
Joseph Bruchac
Illustrator: Greg Shed
Publisher: Silver Whistle
Publication Date:
32 pages

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