As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, you may be looking for entertainment that reflects the spirit of the holiday—one of thankfulness and generosity—and is suitable for the entire family. If so, I would like to share a few suggestions:
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The Thanksgiving Visitor: A Beautiful Story with an Invaluable Lesson
I have read Truman Capote’s The Thanksgiving Visitor every Thanksgiving season since I first discovered it years ago. It is a masterfully written and moving story about events in one little boy’s life during this holiday when we give special thanks for our many blessings, most notably our family and friends. .
Originally published as a short story in McCall’s magazine in November 1967, The Thanksgiving Visitor was republished in book form the following year by Random House. It is not a long book, though. In the copy I own, the actual story runs a mere 55 pages, and it would be much shorter if formatted differently, so it doesn’t take very long to read at all. In fact, you can read it in less than an hour, more like 30 minutes really.
Although written for adults, The Thanksgiving Visitor is yet immensely appealing to children, mainly because they can relate to the eight-year-old narrator, Buddy; they enjoy the antics of the dog, Queenie; and they find Buddy’s elderly cousin, Aunt Sook, amusing and loveable. Capote’s tale, however, like much classic literature is more than simply entertaining because it teaches important lessons. For instance, according to the Committee for Children (2010), “The story's events, relationships, and flawed characters are guaranteed to spark lively discussions about such issues as bullying and bystander behavior, anger management, empathy, and friendship.”
Personally, however, I enjoy Capote’s story not for its moral lessons, but because it is beautifully written, with realistic characters to which I can relate, and because, regardless of how many times I read it, it always makes me cry. It is that touching.
In addition to reading Capote’s story each year, I also like to watch a few Thanksgiving-themed movies, though it seems that good movies about this holiday, unlike Christmas, are in short supply. Then again, though few in number, there are yet some excellent movies with Thanksgiving themes and/or settings, including, but not limited to, the following.
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A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving:
Rated four stars by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter, coauthors of Video Movie Guide 1995, and described as an “adorable seasonal special,” this short animated film was originally made for television in 1973 but is still shown in many areas around the country and is also available on DVD. Filled with Charles Schulz’s delightful Peanuts characters, the story beautifully captures the true meaning of Thanksgiving and does so with humor, warmth, and sincerity.
The Thanksgiving Story:
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Another original television special, which was also made in 1973, The Thanksgiving Story stars Richard Thomas, Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, Ellen Colby, and Will Geer, otherwise known as the Walton family. John Boy (Thomas) has fallen in love with “the girl of his dreams” and is applying for a college scholarship, but then he has a serious accident that threatens to destroy everything. Although Martin and Porter claim the movie is “a bit slow-paced and overly sweet,” it’s well worth seeing and will warm even the coldest heart.
Granted, this movie is associated with Christmas, but it is also a Thanksgiving movie. After all, Macy’s big parade is always held on Thanksgiving Day, and one of the big scenes in the movie is the annual parade. Besides, watching it at Thanksgiving can help put you in the mood for the coming Christmas season.
Made in 1947 and starring Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara, and Edmund Gwenn, this family classic, as Martin and Porter say, is “one of Hollywood’s most delightful fantasies.” It tells the story of a little girl who has lost the spirit of Christmas but has it rekindled by a department store Santa who causes a furor when he claims to be the real thing. Whether he is or isn’t the real thing, well, that’s up to you to decide.
Committee for Children (2010) “Literature Extension Activity: Truman Capote’s The Thanksgiving Visitor,” retrieved November 1, 2010 from cfchildren.org
Maltin, L. (2009) Leonard Maltin’s 2010 Movie Guide; New York: Signet Books
Martin, M. & Porter, M. (1994) Video Movie Guide 1995; New York: Ballantine Books