Thursday, November 4, 2010

Top 10 Best Thanksgiving Picture Books: It's All About the Turkey

I think I read every turkey picture book out there!  My 9 year old asked me, “Why do the turkeys always get away?”  He told me he did not like that the turkey always outsmarting the humans.  He wanted a story where the people ate the turkey!  LOL This statement is from a child who doesn’t even like to eat turkey!  It does make you think:  Are publishers subliminally trying to convert us to veganism?  Just “food” for thought. J   

10 Fat Turkeys (ages 2-6) byTony Johnston
Ten goofy turkeys are sitting on a fence.  One by one they fall off because of some crazy antics, such as whistling in a shoe, trying to roller skate, balancing some bricks, and swanning a swan dive.  Each turkey is unique “dressed,” either formally or causally.  

Why I Chose It:  It is a fun counting book with humorous illustrations.  The language is poetic and pleasing.  Students can predict the next number as they count backwards.

A Plump & Perky Turkey (ages 5-10) by Teresa Bateman
The town of Squawk Valley wants a turkey for their Thanksgiving feast, but the turkeys go into hiding once the leaves begin to change.  Then, one of the townspeople comes up with a plan to hold arts and crafts fair where everyone makes a turkey sculpture out of something like soap, oatmeal, or clay.  They decide to lure a turkey out of hiding by asking for a “model” for their works of art.  Signs are placed all over the woods which one lone turkey answers.  After posing, he camouflages himself amongst all the other faux turkeys before he is caught.  He eventually escapes.  

Why I Chose It:  The illustration and language are wonderful.  It is written in a rhythmic poetic verse with lots of alliteration.  The narrative shows the people being clever, but unfortunately, once again the turkey is even more cunning.   Finally, it exhibits the town working together toward a goal.  Even though it does not turn out the way they hoped, they still celebrate thankfully (sort of). 

A Turkey for Thanksgiving (ages 5-9) by Eve Bunting
Mr. and Mrs. Moose are preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for some of their animal friends.  Mrs. Moose shares her longing to have a turkey for the holiday meal.  So Mr. Moose goes into the forest looking for one.  As his friends see him on his quest, they join him.  They find and catch a turkey for dinner…but not in the way the reader might expect.  A similar story is Sometimes it’s Turkey, Sometimes it’s Feathers (ages 4-8) by Lorna & Lecia Balian.  

Why I Chose It:  My son was delighted with the story.  (It was early in our Turkey reads, so he was not burned out yet.)  The ending is unexpected.  The characters are kind, considerate, and cooperative.

Beauty and the Beaks (ages 6-11) by Mary Jane and Herm Auch
Beauty (a chicken) runs a beauty shop called the Chic Hen.  She loves to make other hens look their best.   She is also the only chicken who can fly out of the coop to “eggsplore.”  One day Lance, a new bird, moves into the coop in preparation for a special feast.  He acts conceited because he is the only one invited.  When Beauty finds out that Lance is not a guest but the main course, she and the other hens give him a makeover to look like a hen.  

Why I Chose It:  The illustrations are the most creative!  The characters are hand-made chicken mannequins with constructed sets.  The story has a good moral.  Even though Lance is not kind to the other birds, they still help to save him.  Finally, the story has lots of wonderful wordplay from “egg” substitutions in “ex” words to puns on words like “dressing.”

Gracias: The Thanksgiving Turkey (ages 4-8) by Joy Cowley
Miguel receives a live turkey in the mail from his father, a truck driver.  He is instructed to take care of it until Thanksgiving.   This request is unusual since Miguel lives in the city.  Despite the circumstances, Miguel, his family, and the community all help to take care of it.  When it comes to Thanksgiving though, Miguel cannot stand the thought of eating his pet.  Fortunately, a solution is found.  

Why I Chose It:  This book has a unique setting for this type of book (the city).  It illustrates a multicultural, non-traditional family (grandparents and an aunt take care of him while his father words as a trucker). The whole community works together to help out Miguel. 

I’m A Turkey (ages 4-8) by Jim Arnosky
I’m A Turkey is not necessarily a Thanksgiving story.  Instead, it explains the world through the perspective of a turkey. It is the most realistic portrayal of a turkey in these picture book fictions.  There is, though, some element of personification since the turkey is narrating.  The turkey discusses how they communicate, how they fly, and what they fear.  For another realistic turkey narrative, check out A Thanksgiving Turkey (ages 6-11) by Julian Scheer.  It is the story of a boy and his grandfather as they hunt a turkey over several months time period.  

Why I Chose It:  This book gives a concise and entertaining view of the world through the eyes of a turkey that is mostly realistic.     

Run,Turkey, Run! (ages 3-7) by Diane Mayr
Run, Turkey, Run!  is an energetic narrative that is sure to get children involved and excited.   Thanksgiving is only one day away!  Turkey needs to find a place to hide from the farmer.   As the farmer comes out of the house, Turkey hightails it out of there to the sound of “Run, Turkey, Run!”   The rest of the narrative follows a consistent format of hiding, finding, and escaping with regular intervals of alliterative onomatopoeia and the repetitive participatory phrase, “Run, Turkey, Run!”  The Turkey manages to escape into the forest that is until the family spots him while looking for a Christmas tree…then the whole process starts again.  

Why I Chose It:  I enjoyed this book because it is conducive to student participation.  The language is pleasurable and lively.  There is also a teaching opportunity for language arts on alliteration and onomatopoeia. 

Thelonius Turkey Lives! (On Felicia Ferguson’s Farm) (ages 5-9) by Lynn Rowe Reed
Thelonius lives happily on the Ferguson Farm.   As Thanksgiving approaches, he becomes worried about his frequent, delicious meal and daily feather plucking.  As a result, he decides he will not go to the chopping block without a fight!  Thelonius begins to play some outrageous tricks on Felicia.  The ending is surprising and satisfying to both children and turkeys.  

Why I Chose It:  The collage illustrations are creative, but a bit on the busy side for my preferences.  On the other hand, the story is well-written and engaging. 

Turk and Runt: A Thanksgiving Comedy (ages 4-8) by Lisa Wheeler
Turk’s parents are proud of him.  His father wants him to be an athlete while his mother has hopes he will be a dancer.  Daily, Turk works to please his parents by practicing his football and ballet moves.  His brother Runt, on the other hand, is ignored though he is the wisest and cleverest of the birds.   Fortunately, Runt’s antics save the family when hungry shoppers come by to pick the best turkeys for their Thanksgiving meals.  

Why I Chose It:  I like the moral that looks can be deceiving.  The story is humorous and entertaining.  The ending is clever. 

Turkey Trouble (ages 4-9) by Wendi Silvano
Of all the turkey books, this one has some of the best and most creative illustrations.  The turkey knows he is about to become the main course in a Thanksgiving dinner.  He avoids the farmer by dressing up as various animals on the farm, but no matter what animal he tries to hide as, he is always discovered.  Eventually, he comes up with what I think is the most ingenious disguise and solution to the family’s Thanksgiving hunger.  

Why I Chose It:  I love the picture and the disguises.  It has the most original ending.  I vote it top Turkey pick! 
Honorable Mention
Gus, The Pilgrim Turkey (ages 6-9) by Teresa Bateman
Gus loves is a turkey with style.  He loves to wear unique outfits and hats.  He enjoys the seasons and the natural wonders.  Gus loves his life on the farm…until his farm friends tell him about Thanksgiving!  He packs his backpack with food and his favorite outfits.  Then, he follows the other birds south for the winter.  He travels south until he ends up on a ship that arrives at the South Pole on Thanksgiving Day.   Once again, he must flee hungry people.  He cleverly hides among the penguins with his New Year’s Eve tuxedo.  The penguins are willing to help him learn to adapt in his new environment.  Turkey realizes that like the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, he too is a pilgrim in a strange, new place. 
Extension Activities


  1. Wow! I absolutely love your blog! I was wanting to get my daughter some Thanksgiving books (she's 2) and most of these titles were new to me! I am becoming your follower so I can keep up with all these great posts!

  2. Thank you, outgrowingmyself. That means alot. I am glad you found some new titles to check out. More Thanksgiving titles will be added soon. This post is just for turkeys. :)

  3. I also really like The Very First Thanksgiving Day. If you notice in the book, the little Indian girl and little Pilgrim girl exchange dolls at the very end of the book. The book is in rhyme also!

    Nice list and great timing for the upcoming holiday! Thank you!

  4. Thanks for that suggestion, Pragmatic Mom. I am still working through reading Thanksgiving books. This is just my turkey post :) That book does not sound familiar though. I'll check to see if it is available at a library near me.


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