Turkey Trouble

Poor turkey. It’s the time of year when he’s on the menu as the main course. What’s a bird to do?

The turkey created by Wendi Silvano has a plan. He’s going to fool Farmer Jake by dressing up in ingenious costumes and hiding amongst the other farm animals. His costumes are….almost….perfect, but nothing is working the way he planned, until he tries Plan B and takes Thanksgiving dinner in a whole new direction.

This book is so fun to read with the kids. I pretend to be utterly convinced by turkey’s costumes and they insist I’m wrong. It never fails. We love turkey so much that we will see him again for Christmas:

And just today, while looking for the covers of these two, I discovered a new book!!!

I don’t have this one yet, but I will!

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Sometimes It’s Turkey, Sometimes It’s Feathers

Lorna Balian is a really fun author. Rarely do her stories go in the direction that you think they will. Her Thanksgiving story is no exception to the rule.

Old Mrs. Gumm was out looking for mushrooms when she discovers a freckled egg one day in April. She takes the egg home and she and her cat decide to hatch it. They plan to raise the turkey to be nice and fat for a delicious turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

The turkey eats. And eats. And eats. He has a habit of eating everything that that Mrs. Gumm could use to make Thanksgiving even better, but she keeps reassuring the cat that he will be a nice fat turkey. The cat is pretty patient, that darn turkey keeps eating his food!

Finally, the big day arrives and Mrs. Gumm takes the old hatchet and sharpens it. Then she hones it. Then she polishes it. After almost all the other food is done she tells the cat that she will now go get the turkey for dinner.

My more perceptive students said, “wait, it won’t have time to cook,” but most of the kids were surprised to see the turkey sitting at the table with Mrs. Gumm and the cat. Mrs. Gumm hints that the turkey will be even fatter next year, but none of my students believed she’d ever eat him.

As I said, Lorna Balian’s books will surprise you. I don’t own them all, so I haven’t read them all, but her are some of her titles.

‘‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

Today my first graders and I enjoyed some silly turkey books and I wanted to share one by Dav Pilky with you.

I pointed out that Pilky is the author of the very popular Captain Underpants books, which all of my students seem interested in. One little boy did tell me that he wasn’t allowed to have a ‘bad’ book with underpants in it. I had to reply that I didn’t think there were any underpants on the turkeys in our story today.

The story is written to parody the famous C. Clement Moore poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas. The kids get on the bus and head off for a field trip the day before Thanksgiving.

(The teacher appears to be a daredevil driver, the wheels aren’t even touching the ground, and a wheelie?!?!)

The are off to visit Farmer Mack Nugget at his turkey farm.

He has names for the turkeys like Wally, Beaver, Shemp and Groucho. The kids of course fall in love with these fluffy turkeys.

For some reason the farmer doesn’t pause to consider the consequences of telling the kids that the turkeys will be the holiday dinner the next day. Cue the crying emotionally scarred children. The farmer and teacher turn their backs momentarily and the kids take matters into their own hands.

These ingenious kids sneak the turkeys away and while they do make it to the Thanksgiving tables of the kids’ families, they come as guests.

Needless to say, the kids loved 💕 this story. Okay, I did too.

Pilgrim Cat

This is the time of year to be thankful, or at least to express our thanks openly, so I’d like to say how thankful I am for teachers and friends who recommend books to me. A good friend at work told me about a wonderful Thanksgiving book called Pilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock.

I bought a used paperback copy and have shared it with my third grade classes this year.

The story follows Faith as her family crosses the Atlantic on the Mayflower. Faith finds a cat on the ship that she quickly bonds with, and named him Pounce.

Faith and Pounce, along with all the Pilgrims, face a hard journey over the sea. The colonists had to deal with seasickness, poor quality food and fevers before they reached the New World. Faith survives the hardships and she and Pounce join the new community at Plymouth Bay.

I like this story because it does talk about the fear of the Native people, but ultimately the kindness of the Natives shines through.

Faith is devastated when Pounce vanishes the first summer. At the risk of ruining the story, Faith’s friend Squanto discovers Pounce and her new kittens in the woods.

Faith, and all of the Pilgrims, had much to be thankful for that first fall, and the kids thought it was pretty close to what they have learned in social studies. They did point out that the book has turkey being served at the banquet, and we teach them that it was more likely goose or even swan.

And just for fun, here is my favorite result from my Google search for “pilgrim cat”:

Molly’s Pilgrim

With Thanksgiving just a week away, I’ve been reading Thanksgiving stories to the kids at school. Most are either traditional pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving stories or silly ones about turkeys. But one story is about another kind of pilgrim.

Molly is new to her school and sadly, is being bullied because she is an immigrant. Her Jewish family came to America when the Cossacks were terrorizing the Jewish people of Russia.

Molly has never celebrated Thanksgiving before and had never heard of a pilgrim. Her teacher explained that they were from England, and came to the New World to worship in freedom. She then assigns the children to make Native American and pilgrim dolls for a village they will build. Molly is asked to make a girl pilgrim.

When Molly explains the assignment to her mother, her mother insists on making the doll for her. But Molly realizes too late that the doll doesn’t look like a pilgrim, it looks like her mother. Molly’s mother explains that she is a pilgrim. She came to America from the other side to worship freely.

Molly is not happy to show the doll at school, but when she does, her teacher says that’s her mother is right, Molly and her family are pilgrims.

I took this opportunity to ask the kids if pilgrims still came to America today. One vocal young man yelled out, “yes! But now we call them tourists.” (I didn’t laugh out loud, and I just kind of talked around the comment.) The kids were able to recognize that they have classmates who are pilgrims or the children of pilgrims. I think it had never occurred to them that people still come to America looking for a better life.

The Four Gallant Sisters

Reading Hershel of Ostropol yesterday put me in the mood for some fairytales adapted by Eric A. Kimmel. I believe Kimmel is my favorite reteller of old stories. Today I had a few minutes, so I grabbed a book off of the shelf that I had not read before, The Four Gallant Sisters.

This story is described as a combination of two stories by the Brothers Grimm, but I’m not sure which ones. I really enjoyed the story, here’s a quick run down:

The four sisters are orphans and decide to cut their hair, dress like men and learn trades. The oldest becomes a tailor, the second a huntsman, the third a master of sleight of hand, and the youngest a star gazer. They are masters in their trades after their seven years apart, and each has been given a special gift by their trade master. The sisters use their skills and special gifts to find work in a king’s court, still masquerading as men. The king’s mother swears they are women and devises tests for them, which the sisters manage to pass in the most androgynous ways possible. The culmination of the story comes when the king’s betrothed and her four brothers are kidnapped by a dragon.

The gallant sisters rescue them and in the end, marry the princess’s four brothers. The best part of this great story is the end where the King’s Mother was happy with how it all turned out because she was right all along.

I think I’ll read this with 4th grade this year. It’s fun to hear a fairytale where the girls don’t need to be rescued by a prince, but are the rescuers themselves. The illustrations are gorgeous! Tatyana Yuditskaya drew one amazing dragon!

Hershel of Ostropol

One of my favorite types of stories is of the trickster. In the United States we have Brer Rabbit or even Bugs Bunny (kids give you a blank look when you expect them to know who that is.) The trickster is like to tell you about today is Hershel of Ostropol.

Hershel is a Jewish folk character that may have been a real person. We will talk about him again in December — I love his Hanukkah story. But I wanted to find more stories about him to share with my fourth grade students. I found some great ones right on the Wikipedia page as well as a wealth of other Jewish sites.

Here is the one that literally had me laughing out loud at my desk.

The Goose

When Hershele was a child, he had a number of brothers and sisters, of which he was the smallest. Thus, whenever they had a meal, he’d be the last to get anything. As a result, whenever they had goose, he never got to eat a foot, which was his favorite part. One evening, he snuck into the kitchen before dinner and cut a foot off of the goose, slipping it under his shirt to hide.

During dinner, his father noticed that Hershele’s shirt was grease-stained and that the goose’s left foot was missing.

– “Hershele,” he said. “Did you take the goose’s foot?”

– “No, father,” he said. “Maybe it was a one-footed goose.”

– “A one-footed goose? There’s no such thing!”

– “Sure there is. I’ll take you to see one after dinner.”

That evening, Hershele took his father out to a lake near their village. A flock of geese were sleeping on the banks, each tucking one foot into its body so that only the other was visible.

– “There’s one,” said Hershele, pointing. Thinking to outsmart his son, his father clapped, waking the goose and causing it to lower its other leg.

– “There. Now, Hershele, will you admit that you stole-”

– “Wow, father! You just clapped and the goose grew a foot! Why didn’t you do that to the one at the table?”

How can you not love this guy!

Curious George

When thinking of iconic children’s books, Curious George by H.A. Rey would almost certainly rank in the top 10. But there is more to the story(s) about George than you may realize.

George is often listed as a protested or banned book, I believe because of this illustration

But keep in mind, Rey wrote George during WWII, and smoking was thought of differently then. Should we ban books because our cultural ideals shift? I don’t think so.

Speaking of H.A. Rey, he actually created George before the book Curious George. George is one of the monkeys who befriend Cecily G in Cecily G and the Nine Monkeys.

And George wasn’t his original name. Rey originally planned to name him Fifi, as H.A. and Margaret Rey were living in France when he wrote the book. They actually made a daring escape to flee the Nazi invaders and brought their book with them. You can read the Smithsonian article here.

One question I’ve been asked by students is what kind of monkey is George? Forbes published an article on George’s 75th birthday with this theory:

Old World monkeys, except the Barbary macaque, also have tails. Apes (gibbons, siamangs, gorillas, chimps, and orangutans) lack tails, as do humans. This is an important distinction because, as depicted, Curious George has no tail, suggesting he is an ape or possibly a Barbary macaque.

George has come a long way and has some serious staying power. When I was a kid we watched the old claymation stories on tv. I distinctly remember wondering how a puzzle piece that George swallowed and had to have removed surgically could possibly still fit in the puzzle. My daughters watched Curious George the movie, and the follow-up PBS Kids show. George may be a monkey, but his curiosity is equaled by most four year olds. Maybe that’s why we love him so much, at one point or another, we were all our own version of Curious George.

Masquerade

I ran by the thrift store today and picked up a few treasures. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, Beauty and the Beast (by Jan Bret), and the book that really intrigued me, Masquerade by Kit Williams.

The book starts off with an interesting inscription:

Within the pages of this book there is a story told

Of love, adventures, fortunes lost, and a jewel of solid gold.

To solve the hidden riddle, you must use your eyes,

And find the hare in every picture that may point you to the prize.

I leafed through the book and was pleasantly surprised to find that each painted illustration has a hare hidden in it. Each illustration also has a border of words that has certain letters highlighted, though I think that is a red herring.

The story is of Jack Hare delivering a token of love to the Sun from the Moon. It has riddles scattered throughout the story and the prose is poetic.

When I went to a Google search for the cover art, I saw that there was a lot more to this story that I originally realized. From reading the Wikipedia entry, I learned the book was originally published in 1979 in Britain, and it contained clues to find a real 18 karat gold hare, buried in England.

The process to solve the clues is more complex than just looking for hidden hares, and people loved it. It created an entire genre of picture books, called Armchair Treasure Hunts.

I would love to see something like this today, in America. What a fun way to spur readers to truly look at a book.

Dear Reader,

If you read this book again, you might discover where hare lost the jewel. If you do, then go and find it, and keep it for yourself, but remember:

The best of men is only man at best,

And a hare, as everyone knows, is only a hare.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Honestly, I think I’d be lost without Epic! eBooks. I have been able to build my lesson plans far beyond just stories with them, and blessedly, it’s free for educators. Today’s book comes from Epic! But I’d buy it in hard copy in a heartbeat.

Madeline Finn doesn’t like to read. She is similar to many early readers in that respect. She really dislikes reading aloud. That is true of many readers, not just kids. Madeline stumbles over words and can hear giggles when it happens. She doesn’t want a ‘Keep Trying’ sticker, she wants s gold star. One day though, Madeline meets someone who won’t giggle and doesn’t try to be overly encouraging. The library dog just listens.

Suddenly, Madeline has a reason to look forward to reading. She does have to work with another dog at one point, but the reason for her new friend’s absence is worth it.

I really liked the message in this book. I know a lot of kids who dread reading aloud and more than a few adults. I do readers’ theater with my students sometimes but the worst possible thing is being corrected by another student. It’s a legitimate reason to be embarrassed.

I have not figured out yet how to bring dogs into my library for a program like this, but I’d love Love LOVE to see it happen. And if I do find a way, I found a great recipe to make treats!