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Animal Theme/Character, Early/Young Readers, Fairy/Folk/Tall Tale, Humor, Picture Book, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations

TURKEY TOT by George Shannon Illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann

Turkey Tot is a  clever re-telling of the classic story The Little Red Hen.  In this version the Little Red Hen is replaced by Turkey Tot and the three uncooperative friends are Chick, Pig and Hen.  Instead of preparing and baking bread Turkey Tot wants the sweet, juicy blackberries in the tree high above their heads.

The other animals agree that the blackberries look delicious but they are too far out of reach and therefore impossible to pick.  The animals began to walk away.  Turkey Tot discovers a ball of string and concocts a plan to find balloons, tie them to the string and float up to the tree where they will then be able to pick the blackberries.  The other three animals dismiss his idea:

“Not me,” said Chick.  “You’re talking crazy talk.”

“Not me,” said Pig.  “We can’t reach the berries and that is that.”

“Tsk, tsk,” said Hen.  “He’s been different since the day he hatched.”

Turkey Tot’s response is always that he will do it himself followed by:

But he couldn’t.  So he didn’t.  But he found something else.

Turkey Tot’s next discovery leads to another ingenious plan, and so on.

The structure of the original Little Red Hen story solidly underlies Turkey Tot but here the characters have a little more personality–other than lazy and selfish.  In the end Chick, Pig and Hen come to appreciate Turkey Tot’s creative and original thinking.  The phrase “He’s been different since the day he hatched.” becomes an expression of admiration instead of a put-down, leaving all four characters better off than they were at the beginning of the story.

Jennifer Mann’s illustrations are bright primary and secondary hues in bold panels.  The characters are drawn simply yet completely and Turkey Tot has wonderfully quirky facial expressions that mirror his personality perfectly.

This is a great read-aloud for younger children in classrooms or at home.  I will also be using it with older students when I study fairy tales for structure and examples of different versions based on a traditional form.

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