Thursday, November 14, 2013

Plump and Perky Turkey

As I have mentioned before, I am a total sucker for seasonal books. The trouble with seasonal, holiday-themed books is that it seems that publishers know they will sell, just by virtue of the fact that they are seasonal or holiday-themed. Meaning, not on the virtue f the writing. There are a lot--and I mean a lot, of bad holiday books out there.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the fall. I love food. I love the harvest. I love visiting New York, and this is the only time of year I seem to do that anymore. I love the parade (we used to go every year when I was a child). I love the smells. I love the brisk walk I take after the crazy meal. Most of all, I love being with family.

Now, when you love a holiday, and you love children's books, you naturally want a good collection of books to psych your kid up for the season. The trouble is, so many Thanksgiving books are terrible.

Enter A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman. I happened upon it one October in the now-closed Nashua Used Book Superstore. I picked it up because of my known Thanksgiving obsession. I read it, expecting another bad holiday book, and was quite surprised. This one is very good. Good enough that Jay asks to read it year-round.

General synopsis:
"The people of Squawk Valley were downhearted and depressed. Thanksgiving was approaching, but without its special guest. They couldn't find a turkey for the feast they planned to eat. It looked like they'd be making do with bowls of shredded wheat." What ensues is a great little story about the townsfolk coming together to "trick a turkey into jumping in the pot." They decide to hold an arts and crafts fair, and invite a plump and perky turkey named Pete to be the judge. The trouble is, Pete is a pretty clever bird. As you can probably guess, Pete gets away, but the townsfolk are still grateful for their bowls of shredded wheat.

Who loves it:
I do. Good seasonal books have a special place in my heart. Jay does. He loved it from the first Thanksgiving season we read it (when he was 11 months old), and we often read it during the rest of the year, too. Kay is warming to the book this season. After our first seasonal reading on November 1, she has started calling most poultry birds "turkeys." So, she is enthused, if not necessarily accurate.

Why we love it:
This is a very lovable book. The townsfolk seem sweet, but slightly (and endearingly) dim. The bird is clever, and has a sense of humor. Actually, a lot of the book is funny. It produces little chuckles, if not belly laughs. On the page where Pete is fleeing, it is fun to have the younger kids try to find him among all the other arts and crafts turkeys. Also, the rhyme is wonderful. I've said it before--if an author is going to rhyme a book, it had better be done well. This book is written with skill. Every word rolls off the tongue, and there are no sticky points that trip up your read-aloud. This is especially important for a Thanksgiving read-aloud, because we bring it to New York with us, where relatives who ave not read the book a hundred times are reading it to our children.

The verdict:
If you love Thanksgiving, and you want to start putting some books on your child's shelf for the holiday, A Plump and Perky Turkey should be first on your list. It is a good story, regardless of its seasonality. My only warning is that it does produce a bit of a pang of guilt if you do eat turkey on Thanksgiving. The "turkey escapes being eaten on Thanksgiving" theme is extremely common in Thanksgiving books. At least this one does it very well. Still, if your child is very sensitive to the plight of Pete and other birds, I could see why you might proceed with caution.

That said, this is, by far, my favorite book for my favorite holiday.

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