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TURK AND RUNT by Lisa Wheeler


by Lisa Wheeler & illustrated by Frank Ansley

Age Range: 4 - 7

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-689-84761-0
Publisher: Richard Jackson/Atheneum

It’s difficult to explain why Runt, the aptly named young gobbler in Wheeler’s tale, cares for the well-being of his hale and hearty older brother, Turk, as in turkey, real and metaphorical. Runt’s parents lavish all their attention on Turk, all their praise, hopes, and counsel. “He’s a dancer,” said his mother. “He’s an athlete,” said his father. “He’s a goner,” said Runt, for only Runt seems to understand that handsome, plump birds get the chop at holiday time. Runt is full of such Woody Allen quips, and like Woody, Runt is also the unlikely hero, saving Turk from being purchased, roasted, and gently basted, by acting like a lunatic and scaring off potential buyers. Then, when a pinched and parsimonious shrew sets her sights on Runt, it’s Turk’s turn to do the right thing, and he pulls through. Wheeler’s (Sailor Moo, Cow at Sea, p. 890, etc.) comic timing is well tuned here—even if her repetitive authorial aside, “But no one ever listened to Runt,” quickly begins to grate. But most inspired are the luxurious watercolors from Ansley (Wool Gathering, 2001), with their midnight blues, regal purples, and turkey-skinned pinks depicting Turk in his football gear and assorted buyers in their most comic animation. (Picture book. 4-7)