November 24, 2005


Thelonius Turkey Lives! (on Felicia Ferguson’s Farm). By Lynn Rowe Reed. Knopf. $15.95.

Three Hungry Pigs and the Wolf Who Came to Dinner. By Charles Santore. Random House. $16.95.

     It’s prime turkey time from now to the end of the year, which is good news for people and not such good news for turkeys – unless you are a highly inventive turkey named Thelonius.  Lynn Rowe Reed’s hilarious turkey tale is about Thelonius’ determination not to become dinner, and the increasingly bizarre pranks he plays on farmer Felicia in an attempt to keep away from the chopping block.  He paints a “pinch me” sign and hangs it on Felicia’s back, and since all the geese on this farm know how to read, they make the farmer’s life miserable.  Thelonius puts the pigs in Felicia’s bed and gets the chickens to lay hard-boiled eggs.  All his running around has him dropping feathers all over the place – and it is those feathers that turn out to help Thelonius become a “fashion phenom” and get to live happily ever after.  Reed’s illustrations are unusual and quite wonderful, being a mixture of drawings, collages and photos.  And she thoughtfully provides two very nice recipes at the end of the book, neither of them calling for turkey: one is for “feather cookies” and the other for a sweet-potato casserole with marshmallows.  The result is a sweet ending for a sweetly silly book.

     The pigs at Felicia’s farm are bit players in Reed’s story, but pigs are the stars of Charles Santore’s Three Hungry Pigs and the Wolf Who Came to Dinner.  A truffle-finding pig named Bianca and her two piglets help a farmer find the rare, expensive fungi – until Bianca decides it is more fun to eat truffles than to hunt for them.  The farmer throws them out when he discovers that they are eating his livelihood, and the pigs find themselves deep in the forest, amid scary sounds and the even scarier sight of a huge wolf.  Bianca has never met a wolf before, but realizes he is unlikely to want to be friendly – so she picks up a truffle and pops it into his mouth.  The wolf likes it so much that he and Bianca become partners in truffle hunting – until a pack of wolves smells the three pigs and closes in for a meal.  What happens then is a study in unlikely friendship and an equally unlikely happy ending – but this is, after all, a fairy tale, invented by Santore and illustrated by him with gorgeously realistic precision that makes all the animal characters come alive.  It’s a feast for the eye – though truffles are not included.

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