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The Thanksgiving Wish

A Thanksgiving Wish

Author: Michael Rosen
Illustrator: John Thompson
ISBN: 0590255630
Summary: A young Jewish girl copes with her first Thanksgiving after the death of her beloved grandmother.

Literature Based Unit Study Written by Merilee Morse 

Bible Memory-
Memorize Psalm 100 and learn to give thanks to the Lord!

Bible story- Timothy
Learn about Timothy and his mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice, as mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy chapter one.  If your student's grandparents have been involved in their spiritual training, take time to discuss how and why.

Social Studies- Extended family
This is a good opportunity to discuss relationships within the family (what is an aunt, uncle, cousin, etc.) and discuss various family traditions which have been important to you.
Social studies- Death
Death of loved ones- Obviously the best time to deal with the realities of death in a family is before necessity demands it.  A gentle discussion about your beliefs of life after death, of funerals and mourning rituals appropriate to your family.
Social Studies- Geography: Ohio
I have chosen the setting for the story as Ohio; since the author does not give a setting, and Ohio is where he grew up.  Find Ohio on a map of the U.S. and try to find out some facts about the state.  For example, seven U.S. presidents came from Ohio, more than any other state except Virginia.  You could also place your story disk in the place where you celebrate Thanksgiving.

Social Studies- Traditions
Discuss the Thanksgiving traditions of the family in the book.  The wishbone tradition made Amanda sad when her Bubbe was gone; however, the traditions (food, wishbone) also gave the family members comfort.  Traditions are something that can be steady and passed from generation to generation reminding us of who we are and where we came from.  What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

Social Studies Rabbit Trail
Your older student may wish to study/research Jewish culture or Jewish holidays.  There is already a lesson for this in the unit, The Butterfly.

Language Arts- Vocabulary

                                           bubbe: Yiddish name for grandmother
                                           challah: Jewish egg bread, served especially during the Sabbath
                                           legendary: something famous; something stories are told about.
                                           matzoh: flat, cracker-like bread served especially during
                                           recruited: assigned for a special job.
                                           tzimmes: (pronounced SIM-us) varies, but is generally a stew of
                                                          meat, sweet or white potatoes, carrots and stewed
Language Arts- Interview
An interview with a grandparent is an excellent means of learning about that person's life when they were young.  A suggested writing assignment for an older child could include some or all the following questions: Did you live in a town or in the country?  What was the largest city you visited as a child?  How did you travel?  When did you get your first car?  When did you learn to drive?  Who is the first president you remember?  Which presidents did you vote for?  What type of work did your mother and father do?  How were holidays celebrated?  Who was your best friend in school?  Who was your favorite teacher, and why?  Did you have television or radio?  What was your favorite program?  How did you meet your husband or wife?  What do you consider the greatest invention of your lifetime?  What is the most important thing you wish to share with your grandchildren?  There are, of course, many other possibilities.

Write a Thank-you Note
If you read the dedication page, you will notice that John Thompson has dedicated this book to all those women who have made him "wonderful Thanksgivings" -- maybe your student would like to write a thank-you note to grandma(s), aunts, cousins, etc. who all help prepare the delectable meal that is served on Thanksgiving Day to your family.

Art- Realism
John Thompson is a realist painter, and he paints with rich texture that seems to almost jump off the page.  If you like, you can look at the work of other realist painters such as Michelangelo, da Vinci and Titian.
Science- Yeast (contributed by Julie S.)

When exposed to warm water and sugar, yeast grows and releases a gas, causing bread to rise. Sugar feeds the yeast and salt controls the growth. Children can observe this process by watching dough rise in a glass bowl. Point out the bubbles visible through the sides of the bowl. When the dough has risen, let the child punch it down. Also point out the air pockets in a slice of bread. Homemade bread and hearth loaves from the store often have irregular air pockets.

These simple experiments may help children remember what yeast needs to grow and how some ingredients function in the baking of yeast bread. Control as many variables as possible: identical bowls, equal measured amounts of water and other ingredients. Ask the child to make predictions about what will happen and discuss the results. Apply the results to bread baking, Should we use warm or cold water? What would happen if we forgot the sugar? The following two experiments yielded obvious results and were very interesting to my three year old.


1.   Dissolve a teaspoon of yeast in a small bowl of hot water, and one in very cold water. See which bowl shows more activity. You could also try a bowl of boiling water.

2.   Using two bowls of warm water and yeast, add a teaspoon of sugar to one and a teaspoon of salt to the other. Similar results should be obtained from white sugar, brown sugar, honey, etc.  What happens to the bowl with sugar? to the bowl with salt?


Bread Comes to Life, by George Levenson, shows a close up photo of the gas bubbles created by yeast.
The photo is also available online
explains the function of various ingredients in bread.

Science-  Static and Dynamic (Current) Electricity
The family in this story suffers a power-outage.  Our power is usually brought to us through electricity -- there are two types

Static Electricity

This is the charge (shock) you create when you scoot across carpet, then touch a doorknob.  Every object consists of bilLions of teeny tiny particles called electrons and protons.   These particles carry an electrical charge (protons- positive charge, electrons- negative charge).  Usually, the two charges balance each other out, and nothing happens.  However, when two objects with like charges (an all positive object with an all positive object or an all negative object with an all negative object) come together, the charges repel and the object move away from each other.  Objects with opposite charges attract each other because the different charges want to enter a state of balance. 

An object can get a negative charge by picking up extra electrons from other objects.  For example, when your shoes slide against the carpet, your shoes are picking up electrons!  The electrons fly over your body, giving you a negative charge; they fly over you in an attempt to find a positive charge.  When you touch a metal doorknob (attracted by the protons that are sending off a positive charge), the electrons jump into the metal.  Transferring these electrons causes you to feel a tiny jolt, a very small electrical current is what you experience. 


Balloon (inflated)
Fabric-- piece of fur, silk, nylon, or wool
A wall

Tell your student to rub the balloon on a piece your fabric (do this quickly).  Have him place the balloon on the wall and let go.  It sticks!

How does this work?
When your student rubs the balloon, it is being covered with negative charges.  Then, the negative charges are attracted to the positive charges on the wall.

Dynamic Electricity
Static electricity doesn't move in the same way as dynamic or current electricity.  Static is an unmoving accumulation of electric charge, but dynamic is moving.  "Free" electrons are coordinated to flow through a conductive material (such as a power line) to create a uniform motion of current-- electricity. 

a note:  I can't possibly pretend to instruct you further on Current Electricity, but this website looks really good for those of you who have young ones that are interested!  -- it teaches you how to build your own battery AND how to make a simple circuit; it also goes into discussion on conductors (the materials that electricity can flow through). 

Science:  Digestive System
The blessing of good food is one that is usually remembered at Thanksgiving.   Has your student ever thought about what happens to the food he eats? 

The body is made up of several systems.  If your student has studied some of the other systems (immune, circulatory, etc.), you may want to review those.   Another body system is the digestive system consisting of organs that break food down into energy.

diagram and explanation of all the organs used in the digestive process

simpler diagram that needs labeled

Prepared Sheet- Digestive System Vocabulary

A good go-along book for the younger set is Usborne's (Lift-the-Flap) What Happens to Your Food?

Math- Counting
There are a number of counting opportunities in this story; count the wishbones on the curtain rod, the number of relatives who come for dinner, the number of dishes bubbe makes for dinner each year, etc. 

Math- Measuring
For older students, you can have them do measuring as you create Challah, Matzo Ball Soup, and/or Maple Applesauce.  You may also want to try to find a recipe for



1 envelope of active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups warm (not hot!) water
8 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
1 egg at room temperature
1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons wate4 tablespoons poppy seed (optional)
In a small bowl, mix the yeast and the sugar with 1/2 cup water.  Cover and leave in a warm place about 20 minutes until it is nice and bubbly.  Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center.  Break the egg into the center of the well and add the yeast mixture.  Make a soft dough by gradually incorporating the flour into the liquid ingredients, then turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes.  Put in a warm, greased bowl and let rise until double, a couple of hours.  Punch down and divide the dough into six equal portions.  Roll between your hands to make 6 ropes, then proceed to braid them just like braiding hair to make two loaves.  Brush with the beaten egg and water mixture and sprinkle with the poppy seeds.  Let rise until double, about 45 minutes.  Bake 10 minutes in a 450 degree oven, reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake another 40 minutes until golden brown.  Traditionally, the mother would take a walnut sized piece of dough and burn it in a fire as a reminder of the portion given the priests in the temple sacrifice. 
Matzo ball soup
1 box Manischewitz or other kosher matzo ball soup mix
2 cups finely diced cooked chicken
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
1 celery stalk, sliced thin'
1 onion chopped fine
Italian flat leaf parsley
Make soup according to directions.  Sauté the carrot, celery and onion in butter and/or olive oil until soft.  Add to soup.  Make the dumplings according to package directions; make them small because the fluff up big as they cook.  Add the chicken meat and simmer until the dumplings are cooked; add a couple of tablespoons of chopped parsley and serve. 
Maple Applesauce
6 cups apples sliced and peeled
1/2 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons maple syrup

In large saucepan, combine apples, water and cinnamon sticks.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until apples are tender. Remove cinnamon sticks; stir in syrup.

"We Gather Together," "Come Ye Thankful People, Come," "Thank You Hashem"

Internet links-

John Thompson's website and artwork
A wealth of wonderful information on Jewish culture for children.  I suggest you take some time to explore.  You can learn some simple Hebrew, learn about Jewish holidays, Jewish songs, play games, etc. Check it out!

Additional Ideas

Recipe Box
Note from Ami: Amanda goes through bubbe's recipe file after she passes away.  I can remember the many times my own dear grandmother who is still alive has let me go through her recipe box.  I started this at about 9-10 years old so I could gather my own recipes.  I really want to encourage you to make a recipe box with each of your children.  Allow them to start copying (copy work!) their favorites and file them in their boxes.   Too many recipes get lost when someone in the family hasn't passed them down.  Make sure your children leave your house with full boxes of secret-family-recipes!  Let this book inspire you to start!

Add some more to your Thanksgiving Study
Amanda Bennett Notebooking Pages

Amanda Bennett Thanksgiving Unit Study

Thanksgiving Lapbook

In the Hands of a Child Thanksgiving Lapbook