We Gather Together (Young Readers Edition): Stories of Thanksgiving from Then to Now

Philomel. Sept. 2023. 320p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593404386.
Gr 5-8–This book follows the life of Sarah Josepha Hale and her quest for a nationally recognized Thanksgiving. Throughout the course of Hale’s venture, Kiernan parallels the presidencies, wars, and conflicts of slavery in the United States. Hale is a lesser-known historical figure for young audiences, so this book brings some aspect of accessibility. But it is lacking finesse. The intended audience of this book is unclear; at times, the prose is advanced and lyrically complex, while at others, the sentences stagnate in short compositions and provide condescendingly overt definitions. Beyond style, Kiernan makes some bold comparisons between the abolition of slavery and the national recognition of a holiday, which seems more alarming when there is another day dedicated to the ending of slavery that has recently become a Federal holiday. By overemphasizing the holiday, the book loses focus on the trailblazing accomplishments Hale made as a writer, editor, and activist.
VERDICT While Sarah Josepha Hale is an important woman in America’s history who should be incorporated into more accessible literature, this young reader’s edition falls flat.

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