Sunday, November 18, 2007

Two Turkeys at the Table: A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting and 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey

As Mrs. Moose decorates her Thanksgiving table with a fold-out crepe paper turkey, she confides to her genial husband that she's always wanted a real turkey for Thanksgiving. In his most earnest "yes, dear" manner, Mr. Moose sets out, guest list in hand, on a quest to satisfy his spouse's heart's desire.

Mr. Moose invites the neighbors to dinner--Porcupine, Rabbit, and the always ravenous Goat--as he plods through the frost-nipped landscape, and they join him in scouting out a turkey. At last they find one trying to hide behind warning signs ("No Turkey Here") in the tall grass by the river. Understandably unwilling to provide the provender for their Thanksgiving feast, Turkey resists arrest, but Mr. Moose propels the reluctant turkey homeward, where Mrs. Moose is most appreciative when she sees the appealing plumpness of his pick.

Of course, when the table is set with delicious vegetarian treats for the Mooses and their guests, Mr. Moose pushes Turkey into the guest of honor's seat, and Mrs. Moose solicitously murmurs that she hope he will find something to his taste at her table. Turkey, who has been sweating bullets over his fate, replies with great relief that he had feared the diners would only be concerned about HOW he would taste! All's well that ends well, and Mrs. Moose has her turkey for Thanksgiving at last.

Eve Bunting's take on this old story line flows effortlessly with gentle humor, and Diane deGroat's watercolors perfectly capture the pleasantly frigid autumn landscape and the cozy folkloric cottage interiors as her characters prepare to chow down on their harvest feast together.

For a wackier take on this plot line, humorist author and illustrator Dav Pilkey has a holiday offering which has real kid appeal. 'Twas the Night before Thanksgiving parodies the Clement Clark Moore classic with plenty of pizzaz. If the rhymes are a bit off and the scansion is less than Shakespearean, the vervey verse only adds to the hilarity.

A group of eight kids set forth in a stubby yellow school bus for a pre-Thanksgiving field trip to--you guessed it--Mack Nuggett's Turkey Farm, where they are introduced to the seemingly jovial farmer:

He was dressed all in denim
From his head to his toe,
With a pinch of polyester
And a touch of velcro.

The kids are then introduced to the turkeys,

Ollie, Stanley, Larry, Moe,
Wally, Beaver, and Groucho.

who gleefully join the kids in frolicking through a tour of the farm. But when the kids spot an anxiety-provoking axe gleaming at-the-ready nearby, they suddenly make the fatal connection between turkeys, axes, and Thanksgiving dinners and see that it's time to mount a turkey takeover. Suddenly the kids look a bit plumper, with turkey feet and feathers barely visible under their sweaters as they re-board the bus for the trip home.

When their families sit down for their holiday feast, the emancipated turkeys are at the table, not on it, as all "feast on veggies, with jelly and toast."

Pilkey packs in plenty of verbal and visual gags, such as his goofy illustration spoofing "American Gothic" and the pun on kids' favorite fast food in the farmer's name, which give older kids and grownups some bonus chuckles while the tale bounces along to its kindhearted conclusion. As he did in The Hallow-Wiener and in his holiday book for all seasons, The Dumb Bunnies' Easter, Pilkey's cheery slapstick style lightens up the holiday fun with plenty of laughs for all.

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