An Outlaw Thanksgiving by Emily Arnold McCully

(Suggested reading level: Grades K-4)

How would like to have shared Thanksgiving dinner with Butch Cassidy and his gang? Thrilled, scared, grateful? While this story is fiction, according to the author’s note it’s based on an actual Thanksgiving dinner that took place in 1886.

In November 1886, Clara and her mother are heading west on the train to meet Papa in Utah and then head on to California. Their train gets snowed in and a nice man who they met on board offers to take them with him to Brown’s Hole for a few days, until the train is dug out. He promises them a real Thanksgiving dinner with respectable ranchers.

The feast is magnificent, but then Clara recognizes on of their hosts from a wanted poster- it’s Butch Cassidy! She’s brave enough to ask him if he’s planning on robbing the train.

“Well, a poster don’t tell the whole story of a man,” Butch said. “We’ve all worked as cowhands here. These people have been good to us. And we’re just saying thanks today.” He winked. “We won’t rob your train. I wouldn’t want to scare your mama after she’s had such a good time.”

Clara doesn’t want to scare her mom either, so she keeps the information to herself. Eventually the train is dug out and Clara and her mom finally get to see Papa again.

I really enjoyed this look at the Old West, the illustrations are beautiful watercolors depicting a time period in our history where the west was still dangerous, where outlaws or weather could take their toll. But it also showed the kindness people have for each other, even the “bad guys” have people they care about, people they want to do something special for. Thanksgiving is about being thankful for all our blessings and sharing those with others, and this was a nice, adventurous tale that gets that message across, along with a bit of America’s history.

Purchase at Amazon.

37 pages
First published October1, 1998

4 out of 5 stars

Challenge: 100+

I borrowed my copy from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon and IndieBound affiliate.


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