Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving from A to Z

With Thanksgiving approaching, I thought it would be fun to talk with Laura Crawford, author of one of my favorite Thanksgiving picture books, The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving from A to Z. Laura isn’t just an amazing author, she’s a good friend and a wonderful person.

The Pilgrims' Thanksgiving from A to Z
by Laura Crawford

From Amazon:
In this alphabet picture book, author Laura Crawford brings the Pilgrims' story to light by balancing classic Thanksgiving themes with clever lessons about the Pilgrims' trials and triumphs. Noting American ideals like "F is for freedom" alongside the realities of Pilgrim life, such as "H is for hardship," as well as teaching geography ("A is for Atlantic Ocean"), cultural facts ("W is for Wampanoag tribe"), and historical names ("M is for Miles Standish"), this book is a wonderful vocabulary builder and a fun way to pass the Pilgrims' story on to another generation.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I love that Laura has found a way to making learning about the Pilgrims’ journey from England to Massachusetts fun. For instance, did you know there were 102 pilgrims who made the journey on the Mayflower or that the women baked a weekly supply of bread in a large community oven? Thanks to Laura, I do now.

Please help me welcome Laura.

Cherie: Where did you get the idea for your book?

Laura: I was inspired to write The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving From A to Z when I was teaching 2nd grade. We were doing a Thanksgiving unit and I needed to teach the history of the holiday. When I went to the library, I found that the books were all way too easy or way too difficult for 7 year-olds. Since I couldn’t find what I wanted, I wrote my own. It was finished by the following year, so I printed it out and had my students illustrate it.

Cherie: I love that you decided to write the book you needed. And what a fun project for your students! The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving From A to Z has a lot of great information about the pilgrims’ voyage to America. What type of research did you do before writing the book?

Laura: It took a long time to research this book. I read Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, one of Pilgrim leaders. It was by far one of the most challenging books I have ever read in my life! Not fun. I also contacted the museums in Massachusetts and they sent me information. Most of my research was done through the internet and by checking books from the library. Since I only need the most basic information, it was not too hard to find…except for K, Q and X. They are officially my LEAST favorite letters of the alphabet. Every time I do an ABC book, they are the most challenging.

Cherie: You know, I hated having to find examples of words with those letters when I was in school, so I can sympathize. Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

Laura: I usually have an idea….and then do nothing about it for a long time! Then I start reading and watching videos. Since I do a lot of history books, I watch the History Channel and the Biography Channel. It seems like an idea percolates in my head for a long time, and when I actually start typing, it goes pretty fast. Then I let it sit for awhile before my writing groups get to see it…several times!

Cherie: Percolating ideas: I love it! What is your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?

Laura: Oh that’s easy…..mashed potatoes!  Haha. 
As far as the book goes, I’d say Squanto.  I foresee a Squanto book in my future.

Cherie: Funny that you could answer that so easily. I’m still trying to figure out my favorite part of the holiday. It might be the turkey, I like nibbling on it for days. Or maybe the yams. Definitely the desserts. Now I’m making myself hungry.

Young children say the darnedest things and I’ve read many of your Facebook posts that reflect this. Have you read your story to children? Can you share with us some of their comments about the book?

Laura: I’ve read the book to many children, but I can’t remember anything funny they’ve said to me, but I always tell them about the mistake in my book. On the page with C is for Clothing, you will read that the Pilgrims did not wear buckles.  When Pelican Publishing sent me the galleys to approve, there was a huge buckle on the page with R is for Plymouth Rock.  Well, I called them and freaked out. They took the giant buckle off the shoe…but nobody else (including me) noticed that there are buckles on 3 other pages.  So spread the word…the Pilgrims did NOT have buckles!  And the moral of the story: take your time and look closely at ALL illustrations before approving them.

Cherie: Oh, that is a great story. I remember reading that the Pilgrims didn’t have buckles, and I didn’t notice that some of the pictures included them. What a great tip for writers.

When I was young, we used to play pilgrim or the Indian? I was always an Indian. How about you, when you were young, were you a Pilgrim or an Indian?

Laura: Not really….I wanted to be Wonder Woman when I was young! Haha

Cherie: Can you imagine Wonder Woman sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner with the Pilgrims and Indians? ** pauses to imagine how that would go ** You have a few picture books out. Which was the most fun to write?  Which was the most difficult to write? 

Laura: Hmmm….that is a hard question!  I think the Postcard series was the most fun to write because the main character is so cute and spunky (and based on my niece).  I did have fun doing In Arctic Waters because I love cumulative tales and animals, although I’m not a very good rhymer.  I think the most challenging was The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving From A to Z because I had to make the alphabet fit the chronological order of events. I bet I rearranged my letters for that book about 20 times (and I’m not exaggerating!)

Thank you so much for interviewing me!!  Happy Thanksgiving to you….

Cherie: Thanks for stopping by! And a Happy Gobble Gobble Day to you too!


  1. I love how this book came about. Alphabetical AND chronological order - man, I bet that was tough. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention and for the interview.

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  3. Loved this interview! What an incredible, hands-on learning experience for your students! I always love hearing about teachers that look for a book and end up writing their own. How incredible! And who doesn't love to learn about the pilgrims, their amazing voyage, and of course, FOOD!

    I can't wait to read this book Laura! :)

  4. Thanks Nicki and Katie. I had a lot of fun learning more about Laura's writing process. :)

  5. Great interview!! I love Laura Crawford's books!