From the author of Speak and Fever, 1793, comes the never-before-told tale of Sarah Josepha Hale, the extraordinary "lady editor" who made Thanksgiving a national holiday!
Thanksgiving might have started with a jubilant feast on Plymouth's shore. But by the 1800s America's observance was waning. None of the presidents nor Congress sought to revive the holiday. And so one invincible "lady editor" name Sarah Hale took it upon herself to rewrite the recipe for Thanksgiving as we know it today. This is an inspirational, historical, all-out boisterous tale about perseverance and belief: In 1863 Hale's thirty-five years of petitioning and orations got Abraham Lincoln thinking. He signed the Thanksgiving Proclamation that very year, declaring it a national holiday. This story is a tribute to Hale, her fellow campaigners, and to the amendable government that affords citizens the power to make the world a better place!
Sarah Hale, a determined widow, magazine editor and author, wanted Thanksgiving declared a national holiday. She launched a letter writing campaign to presidents which lasted thirty-eight years until she finally persuaded Abraham Lincoln to recognize the day.
Have readers discuss the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Then have them classify Thank You, Sarah, taking hints from the cover of the book.
Study the artwork on the cover of the book. What is the historical period?
Foreshadowing is a literary or art technique used to provide clues about something that might occur in the story later. Notice the quill and inkwell on the cover of the book, and the quill on the dedication page. Discuss what this foreshadows about Sarah. Find other examples of foreshadowing in the book. Hint: The bust on the pedestal on the fifth double-page spread.
Point out the first reference in the book to the way some families spend Thanksgiving today.
Sarah Hale is described as bold and brave and stubborn and smart. Why were these traits necessary for Sarah to win her battle to save Thanksgiving?
Discuss why Lincoln, more than the presidents before him, recognized the need to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Note the double-page spread at the end of the book. How many different religions and cultures are represented? Discuss the term “Melting Pot.” How does this illustration represent the concept that the United States is the Melting Pot of the world? What does the illustration reveal about freedom of religion?
How does Anderson use humor to reveal the conflict of the story and facts about Sarah? Faulkner reveals humor in various ways: exaggeration of character features and expressions, movement, line, bold sizes and shapes, and general content. Analyze the text for humor. Study each illustration, and point out the humor in each one.
After her husband died, Sarah Hale took a job making hats to earn money to feed her family. Design a hat that Sarah might have made for Mary Todd Lincoln to wear on the first Thanksgiving after President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Read about Sarah on the following website: http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanksSarahJosepha.htm. Discuss how her observations as a reader helped her career as an editor. She said that she wanted to “promote the reputation of my own sex, and do something for my own country.” Ask students to prepare a memorial tribute to Sarah on the day that she died that states how she accomplished what she set out to do for her own sex, and her country.
Divide the class into small groups. Have them take a look at newspaper and magazine advertisements. Then ask them to write and illustrate a full-page advertisement for a Thanksgiving Day newspaper that pays tribute to Sarah Hale. Encourage them to explore different styles of illustration and writing.
Interpret the following quote by Edward Bulwer-Lytton: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” On the last page of the book, Anderson challenges readers to “Pick up your pen. Change the world.” Encourage readers to think about ways they would like to change the world. What is their passion? Have them write a letter to the editor of a local or national newspaper, a politician, or a school authority about an issue or concern. Make sure they explain the outcome they expect.
Families have different Thanksgiving traditions. Invite students to bring a favorite family Thanksgiving recipe to class. Make an illustrated Thanksgiving cookbook. Assign groups to write a brief history of Thanksgiving, a tribute to Sarah Hale, an explanation of Thanksgiving symbols and traditions, etc. Then ask students to write about a favorite family Thanksgiving tradition. Bind the book and present it to the library.
This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Laurie Halse Anderson is a New York Times bestselling author known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity. Her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Two of her books, Chains and Speak, were National Book Award finalists. Chains also received the 2009 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and Laurie was chosen for the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award. Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Pennsylvania, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @HalseAnderson, or visit her at MadWomanintheForest.com.