Sarah Gives Thanks
written by Mike Allegra; illustrated by David Gardner
2012 (Albert Whitman)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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When I saw the cover and title of Sarah Gives Thanks, I expected the focus of to be about Sarah Josepha Hale's campaign to establish a national day of thanksgiving. In the second half of the book, we do see how Sarah annually made her case for this holiday to sitting presidents until Abraham Lincoln did as she asked. What I really like about Mike Allegra's biography is that we get a compelling account of her entire body of work as an author and editress (as she preferred to be called). Hale was an amazing woman who loved to learn. She badgered her older brother, who was home on summer break from Dartmouth College, until he relented and answered her questions about the textbooks that he brought home. Receiving encouragement from her husband, Sarah submitted poetry to magazines and was published. Sadly, her beloved husband died only nine years into their marriage and Sarah turned to writing as a means to feed her family. After the publication of her first novel Northwood in 1827, she was offered the opportunity to be an editor of a new women's magazine. Sarah promoted the study of history and science in the magazine instead of focusing on fashion. Her magazine became the most widely read publication in the nation. She also used this platform to put forth her idea of a national day of thanksgiving. During her career, Sarah Josepha Hale also penned an anti-slavery novel well before Uncle Tom's Cabin, helped turn Bunker Hill and Mount Vernon into national landmarks, and even wrote a poem you might have heard of called "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Though perhaps most famous for her tireless promotion of a holiday, Sarah Josepha Hale was a major literary figure in her time.
If you want to teach a lesson on the character trait of thankfulness, this is the book that you should seek. Author Mike Allegra shows throughout the book how Ms. Hale is grateful for her lot in life and how hard she worked on behalf of her family and her causes. Reading this terrific picture book biography makes me want to eschew the Pilgrims during Thanksgiving week and teach about Sarah Josepha Hale instead.