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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Plump and Perky Turkey

A Plump and Perky Turkey
by Teresa Bateman
illustrated by Jeff Shelly

Ages 4-8

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Corporation

Stories told in rhyme have a charm and allure that is hard to miss. A Plump and Perky Turkey is one such which, despite its simple story line, managed to put us in a Read->Laugh-along->Repeat cycle.

The people in Squawk Valley
were downhearted and depressed.
Thanksgiving was approaching,
but without its special guest.

Special guest? Why, the turkey, of course!

Far and wide and long and hard they search but not one single turkey was to be found.

But then, Ebenezer Beezer has an idea: why not let the turkey find them instead? And that is what they set out to do. A Squawk Valley Art Show with a turkey theme.

An ad is circulated: Model Wanted for the Art Show.

Why, even turkeys understand
(as everybody knows)
you can't make turkey art
without a turkey there to pose.

None respond, except for silly old Pete, the Plump and Perky, Clever and Cocky.

With a proud and jaunty gobble,
he gave out a hearty cry—
"A plump and perky turkey?
Well, I'm sure I qualify."

He is hired without delay and put to work right away posing for the artsy-craftsy folk to make their turkey art.

They make turkeys out of spuds,
and out of clay and out of rope.
They made turkeys out of oatmeal,
and out of paper, out of soap.

When it is time for Pete to judge the Pete-inspired art, the salivating people exult at having trapped the hapless bird. He studies each work of art as the crowd close in and cheer; he stops for a closer look and then he... disappears!

How? you ask. Well, since I believe it is cruel to leave the reader hanging (esp., if they cannot get their hands on the book easily), here's what Pete did:
The room was full of turkeys,
in a wall-to-wall collage.
For a clever bird like Pete
it was a perfect camouflage.

And manages to escape.

Needless to say, the people of Squawk Valley are certainly disappointed. Crashed are their hopes to relish a roast turkey. But, being pragmatic folk, they agree when Beezer says breezily:
Right now, at least I'm thankful
that we still have shredded wheat."

Turkeys are notorious for lack of smartness, sometimes even to their own detriment. The story puts an interesting twist on this fact. And why cannot they be found around Thanksgiving in Squawk Valley? Well, being clever flightless birds, they gather in groups, hop on hot air balloons and head to warmer shores come autumn.

The illustrations by Jeff Shelly are silly, comical, expressive and busy. The beautiful oranges and browns capture the autumn in the air.

The catchy lilt and rhythm, the double-trickery, the illustrations, and the autumn cheeriness of the setting all have added up to a merry read-aloud favorite.

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