Claudia and the First Thanksgiving (RS#91)

Original Publication Date: 1995

Ghostwriter? Yes, Nola Thacker


Claudia's short takes class is assigned to write and direct a play for the third-graders at Stoneybrook Elementary. They choose a Thanksgiving theme, and in doing the research, learn that they've been viewing the origins of the holiday through rose-colored glasses. They mention how life was actually pretty difficult for the Pilgrims, trying to eke out a living on a land totally alien to them, and how women were subservient to men. They also talk about how some native tribes today mark Thanksgiving as a solemn time of mourning rather than a celebration. Because of this, several parents and teachers protest the script as un-American (well, it wasn't the USA yet...) and demand it be changed to the "traditional" story. Claudia's class relents, but the playbills, publicity, and buttons they wear at the performance make it clear that this is not the original play. They also put on the original at SMS, complete with the original complainers picketing it.

But...as someone who had finished third grade a couple years before this book came out and who attended a teeny tiny private conservative Christian school for it...I have a hard time seeing this protest happening. We learned about the things that were "un-American" and it was a non-issue. Still, the book shows some good ideas for dealing with censorship.

Also, everyone in the BSC starts out with grandiose Thanksgiving plans involving relatives and trips, and all the plans fall through (worst is Mallory's family has to miss the Macy's parade again, just like the last Thanksgiving book when she had mono). So the BSC gets all their families together to celebrate and have a good time anyway. Even Dawn flies in for a surprise visit. Of course, Shannon's and Logan's families aren't part of it.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: potato chips, pretzels, candy corn, chocolate

Stacey likes the Marx Brothers. Smart girl.

Logan likes pecan pie, a traditionally southern dish.

Their Families:

Claudia's family is all dressed in navy blue on the same day. Did they coordinate?

The Pike triplets are all going to dress as Groucho Marx, rather than two of them being Harpo and Chico (maybe Nicky could be Zeppo?). In a past Halloween of the same school year, they were considering the Three Stooges. How long before they let Nicky trick-or-treat with them and be Abbott and Costello AND Laurel and Hardy? Byron would have to be Costello or Hardy since his character trait is eating.

Kristy mentions some of her extended family, and the descriptions fit with the ones she gave way back in Kristy's Big Day.

Mimi used to take Claudia and Janine to the library. I do that with my daughter, too. I hope she likes reading more than Claudia...

The Club (and clients):

The BSC still sits for Betsy Sobak. In case you've forgotten, her practical joke broke Claudia's leg.

Claudia lets us know that Kristy does understand BSc members missing a meeting if they're at a sitting job. How gracious of her.


New teacher: Ms. Garcia teaches a short takes class.

PSA Time: nothing stood out.


It's Thanksgiving for the second time. Halloween is also briefly mentioned, but seems to be the same one from the last book, as it's mostly past tense.

A couple things I would have included in the history bits: it wasn't just that only men could vote, it was only white male land-owners. The Pilgrims first settled in Denmark, but still didn't find the freedoms they wanted there. The illness that killed Squanto's tribe was widespread across the Americas, similar to the Bubonic Plague of the Middle Ages, and wiped out up to ninety percent of the native population, which is why the European settlers had so much space to settle.

The numbers:

Starting 8th grade: 8

Halloweens in 8th grade: 5 (plus one in seventh)

Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 2

Christmases in 8th grade: 1 (Hanukkah is also mentioned, but no one in the BSC has celebrated it--yet)

Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 2

Summers after 8th grade: 8

BSC Fights: 10

SMS Staff and Faculty: 54

Students (other than the BSC): 177; 113 8th graders, 6 7th graders, 42 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.

Clients: 33 families

Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 116

Mary Anne-2


Anonymous said...

This one always confused me. They were so shocked about the "real" Thanksgiving. Shouldn't they have learned that three, four grades ago? And why were the parents' upset again its been common knowledge forever.

SJSiff said...

Exactly. One of the things the parents are up in arms about is the play talking about how women didn't have the right to vote. That was true up until the last century! The play wasn't saying "Look at these EVIL pilgrims!"