Books to Gobble, Gobble Up!


With Thanksgiving day right around the corner, Susan’s latest installment is all about that yummy food awaiting us next week…

Food can be the best part of Thanksgiving Day. Or the worst.

Let’s face it – the “traditional” meal is darn hard to prepare, especially for those of us who are kitchen-challenged. Who hasn’t wound up eating a turkey that’s dry on top, burnt on the wingtips, or, my personal nightmare, still a block of ice? And I won’t even mention the time I forgot to take the “innards” bag out before cooking the bird . . . .

The meal can also lead to delicate family negotiations. My husband and I are now vegetarians, for example, while my parents are overly-enthusiastic meat eaters. My mother wants to teach my sons to make her famous apple-celery stuffing, but they gag on anything green. And if someone is on a diet, well, the feathers start to fly.

This Thanksgiving, if I can’t stand the heat, I can at least get my kids out of the kitchen with these books.

Turkey Trouble, by Wendi Silvano, illustrated by Lee Harper. When Turkey realizes it’s Thanksgiving Day on the farm, he disguises himself as a cow, a pig, and a rooster to avoid becoming the main course. The farm animals’ pop eyes and oversized teeth are just as laugh-inducing as Turkey in a sheep wig. But it’s Turkey’s final costume that saves his day, and his skin – he dresses up like a pizza delivery man. The book doesn’t shy away from the fact that animals are eaten, but there’s no axe in sight.

A Plump and Perky Turkey, by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Jeff Shelly. The people of Squawk Valley are facing a Thanksgiving of shredded wheat – unless they can trick a turkey into jumping into the pot. But “The birds have gotten smarter,/and they all seem quite aware/that it’s best to disappear/when autumn leaves are in the air.” Pete the turkey does answer their ads for a turkey model for a pretend “arts and crafts fair.” But just as the townspeople are licking their lips, Pete escapes. The final scene shows Pete vacationing on the beach with the other “doggone clever” turkeys.

This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story, by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Mark Buehner. Kids can follow Pilgrim and Native American children as they help prepare for the Thanksgiving Feast. Modern kids will be intrigued not only by the type of food the children eat, but also by the amount of work they do — gathering nuts and turnips, hunting fish and rabbits, carrying water, and making baskets. The book counts up from one sleeping boy to twelve tables filled with people eating. The scenes have a serene, archaic feel, beautifully painted in an unusual palette of muted autumnal colors and brighter blues. And the book might even give mom and dad some new ideas for chores . . . .

Harvest Year, by Cris Peterson, photographed by Alvis Upitis. Although this book doesn’t mention Thanksgiving, it’s a fascinating way to introduce kids to how their Thanksgiving dinner makes its way to the table. Each two-page spread features several foods produced in the U.S. during a single month. The same map appears on each page, with different states colored in to show the foods’ origins. There’s something for all ages here – big machines and familiar fruits for the younger kids, more unusual foods and facts for older children. The photographs are brightly-colored, and although the pages are information-packed, the white space and clear drawings keep the subjects accessible.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

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