This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Keepunumuk by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, Alexis Bunten
Illustrator: Garry Meeches Sr.
Published by Charlesbridge Publishing on August 2, 2022
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Holidays & Celebrations / Thanksgiving, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / United States / Native American
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In this Wampanoag story told in a Native tradition, two kids from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe learn the story of Weeâchumun (corn) and the first Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving story that most Americans know celebrates the Pilgrims. But without members of the Wampanoag tribe who already lived on the land where the Pilgrims settled, the Pilgrims would never have made it through their first winter. And without Weeâchumun (corn), the Native people wouldn't have helped.
An important picture book honoring both the history and tradition that surrounds the story of the first Thanksgiving.
If you are looking for a Thanksgiving story to share with your children, I recommend Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry and Alexis Bunteen, illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr. This is the story of Thanksgiving from the First Peoples perspective.
The Meal That Changed Lives
Keepunumuk is the thanksgiving story told by a grandmother to her grandchildren in their garden surrounded by the Three Sisters. She tells the story of how Weeâchumun (Corn) helped the pilgrims survive the winter. But the story also shares how the pilgrims lived on land that the Wampanoag tribe already lived on and how they wouldn’t have survived without their help. The grandmother mentions how the “thanksgiving” meal changed the lives of both the pilgrims and the Wampanoag forever, with many Americans calling it a day of thanksgiving and many Wampanoag calling it a day of mourning.
It hasn’t been until recently, that more books from the Indigenous perspective have been published about Thanksgiving. If you grew up learning about the pilgrims as the main characters all the time, this is a great book to help you reset and balance your understanding of that time in history. I also love that it is told from a contemporary grandmother because it is important that non-Indigenous readers recognize that Indigenous people are not left in the past, but that they are present and living today. If you would like to learn more about why this is important, check out Dr. Debbie Reese’s work on her blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature.
I loved the beautiful illustrations in the books! My children also loved picking out where Fox was hiding on each page as he watched the pilgrims in order to report back on how they behaved.
Context and Language
Before you begin reading the Keepunumuk, I encourage you to start at the beginning with the Before You Begin and Important Words to Know sections on the first page. It’s easy to want to skip over it, but all readers will benefit from the background knowledge it provides for reading this book. I am very thankful for the Important Words glossary, as it has a pronunciation guide that helped me pronounce the words correctly as I read it to my children.
History & Follow-up Activities
In the back of the book, there is additional information about the Wampanoag tribes, their storytelling traditions, and harvest feasts. You can also read about other Wampanoag traditions of giving thanks and even make a recipe for Nasamp!
Other Books by Indigenous Authors
Check out my reviews of:
- Children’s Book Review: Powwow Day by Traci Sorell
- Book Review: Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Young Readers Edition)
- Book Review: The Power of Style: How Fashion and Beauty are Being Used to Reclaim Cultures