Thanksgiving


The ultimate Thankful Thursday.
Thank you, dear readers, for spending a bit of your time here.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving, or at the very least,
have a lovely Thursday.

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An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott, illustrated by James Bernardin.  HarperCollins, 2005.

One of my favorite books as a child was Louisa Alcott: Girl of Old Boston by Jean Brown Wagoner [Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1943].  My grandma scored it at an estate sale, and gave it to me to read while we drove to Colorado for summer vacation.  I read this book many, many times.  By the time I was twelve, I was ready to tackle Little Women, and my other grandma gave me a copy while I stayed with her and my grandpa in Oklahoma.  I do love the March sisters and Marmee and Laurie.  A few years ago, I read an adult biography of Louisa May Alcott, which I wanted to read after watching a documentary about her on PBS.

Yet I have never read anything else written by Louisa May Alcott herself.  I never read Little Men or Jo's Boys, An Old-Fashioned Girl or any of her gothic tales.  As I searched the library website for interesting Thanksgiving books, though, I found this picture book adaptation of her short story "An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving."  I thought the illustrations were beautiful, and while it's a simplified version of Alcott's original story [you can read it here], it was a perfect cozy read for my daughters and me.  (Oh!  James Bernardin illustrated the adorable Yes, Virginia, which became one of Little Sis's favorite holiday specials!  I did not know that until I went hunting for links...)









The story is simple.  A large New England family is about to start preparing their Thanksgiving meal when a visitor arrives.  Grandmother is sick, the parents must go at once.  The oldest daughter decides the children should cook the feast themselves.  Some mistakes are made.  Suddenly the youngest children burst through the door.  People are coming!  It's mother and father, aunts and uncles, and Grandmother herself!  It turned out the messenger had the story completely wrong.  The family sits down to the meal the older daughters made.  There are some comical moments - what is in the stuffing? - but the family is appreciative of the girls' effort.  Music and dancing follow, in a scene that rivals the sugar snow dance at Grandpa's in Little House in the Big Woods.

I have this wonderful image in my head of me, curled up with the girls and a big quilt, snuggled up and reading Little Women someday.  It will be a winter read, as the Christmas scenes are so beautifully written in that book.  I will wait until they are older; the language is a bit too difficult now.  Then we will watch the 1933 film version with Katharine Hepburn, since it's probably closest to the book, and the 1994 version with Winona Ryder, which borrows so wonderfully from Alcott's own life story.  The 1994 version also gives us a Professor Bhaer that almost makes up for Jo refusing Laurie.  I've always had a bit of a weakness for Gabriel Byrne.

P.S.  I might have had Louisa on my mind thanks to Heather at Audrey Eclectic.  She went on a lovely trip to New England last month, which included a visit to Orchard House!  And look at her beautiful Little Women-inspired folk art painting, too.

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Balloons Over Broadway


I have only been to New York once, and it was for two days over Christmas.  In other words, I have never seen the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person.  But it is my personal Thanksgiving morning tradition to watch the parade on television, in the comfort of my pajamas.  When I was young, I sat transfixed.  As an adult, I watch from the kitchen, as I catch up on whatever dishes I have left to prepare for the Thanksgiving meal.  

Last year, we read the wonderful Milly and the Macy's Parade by Shana Corey and Brett Helquist, which explained the origins of the parade through the fictional story of Milly, the daughter of an immigrant Macy's employee.  The first parade was held in 1924, and gave the immigrant workers of Macy's a chance to celebrate this very American holiday in Old World, street-carnival tradition.  

This year, we checked out Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011] by amazing collage artist Melissa Sweet.  


Balloons Over Broadway is the story of Tony Sarg, puppeteer extraordinaire.  Sarg was hired by Macy's Department Store to create an amazing window display for Christmas.  The success of the display led to Macy's hiring Sarg to design the floats and attractions for the very first Thanksgiving Day Parade.  The parade was a success, but the zoo animals, on loan for the parade, frightened the smaller children.  Macy's asked Sarg to come up with a new plan.  His idea?  To team up with the Goodyear rubber company to design and build massive balloon puppets.  The first year, the balloons were controlled by handlers using large sticks.  Alas, this was tiring for the handlers, and the balloons could not rise high enough to be seen by the growing crowds.  The rubber became rubberized silk, helium was added, and the controls became strings, carried by the handlers below, much as they are today.










If you search YouTube, you can find films and performances featuring Tony Sarg (who died in 1940)
 and his puppets.

A look at some vintage balloons from the 1930s:

The airing of the balloons the night before the 2012 parade:

In addition to this book, we also checked out the History Channel DVD Inside the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 2009.  It covered similar material to both picture books, then continued into the modern era.  Did you know that in the late '20s through the early '30s, the balloons were let go at the end of the route?  The first year, they forgot that the helium would expand, and the balloons exploded!  After that, they began releasing some of the pressure from the balloons before setting them free.  There was a contest.  You could win a $100 gift certificate to Macy's for returning a balloon, which of course, was a lot of money during the depression.  The releasing of the balloons was discontinued after 1933, when a pilot nearly crashed.  Oops.

Of course, being a theatre geek, my other favorite reason to watch the parade on television is to catch the Broadway performances.  Here's a fun one from 2010.


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Happy Harvest


Thursday is Thanksgiving Day here in the States, a holiday I'm determined not to forget about, even though the Christmas season is already rushing in.  I'm not even sure if we will have much of a Thanksgiving.  Mr. B is the usual turkey-cooker, but he will probably be working Thursday.  There is a chance he may be off Wednesday, which is the first day of Thanksgiving break for everyone else, so we may have an early dinner.

But today, I offer you a visual feast in the form of two books, both having to do with fall harvest time, and both culminating in Thanksgiving feasts.  Oh, and I should mention that both books feature illustrations by two of the greatest.

Hardscrabble Harvest by Dahlov Ipcar.
Originally published by Doubleday & Co., 1976.
Reprint edition by Islandport Press, 2009.

I love Dahlov Ipcar's illustrations.  The story is simple.  The book demonstrates threats faced by the crops planted at the beginning of the book.  There are crows, chickens, ducks, sheep, rabbits, horses, raccoons, and deer, wreaking havoc in the fields.  Finally, the farm couple rushes to harvest everything they can before the freeze, and a Thanksgiving feast is shared at the table.








The other book I have to share with you was written by Alvin Tresselt, best-known for his 1964 re-telling of The Mitten, and the Caldecott Award-winning White Snow, Bright Snow.  Autumn Harvest is illustrated by his collaborator on the latter, Roger Duvoisin.

Autumn Harvest  by Alvin Tresselt, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin.
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., 1951.
Tresselt begins the book with summer's end, then weaves the simple story of one autumn:  the ripening wheat, the threshing machines, birds and mice gathering stores for the winter, the changing of the leaves, the  katydids singing their song, "Katydid...katydidn't..."  Children go to school, apples are picked and gathered, corn is shucked.  Hallowe'en is celebrated.  Finally, the harvest is gathered, relatives arrive, and a Thanksgiving feast is celebrated in the farmer's home.







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