Review By JENNIFER GANNETT
After visiting Catskill Animal Sanctuary some time ago and meeting a rescued turkey named Ethel and her cohort, I became enamored with turkeys in a way that I hadn’t known was possible. They are so cool! So when I came upon the book Too Many Turkeys, I held my breath with each page I turned. Could it be…a positive, fun story about these birds? YES!
When a little domesticated poult wanders onto Fred and Belle’s small farm, Fred has a compassionate reaction to Belle’s suggestion that they run him off. Fred names him Buford and builds him a house and yard. Belle’s fears that Buford will ruin her garden turn out to be unfounded, and in fact, Buford’s manure causes Belle’s flowers, vegetables and berries to thrive. Curious neighbors take note and ask Belle about her secret but she remains evasive.
Belle goes out of town, and immediately wild turkeys appear on the farm. Initially, there are only a few, but more and more appear. Fred attempts to relocate them, but they find their way back to the farm, and invite their friends. The noise causes neighbors to investigate the ruckus and Fred decides that if the neighbors can help him somehow get the turkeys off of his property (thereby preventing them from ruining Belle’s gardens), he will reveal Belle’s secret. They agree to help him, and he does indeed disclose: it’s turkey poop mixed with other compost. He also points out that there are other benefits to having turkeys around, such as the fact that they eat insects. The neighbors line up to take a turkey home and weeks later, the neighborhood looks prettier than ever. When Belle returns, she asks Fred if he has let anyone in on her secret. He tells a white lie by omission, but she is too busy enjoying the improvements to the neighborhood to press him.
This is a worthwhile story of animals and humans living together harmoniously. There is never any discussion of eating the birds. In fact, Fred and Belle show that turkeys can be valued for who they are, not as a food commodity (with benefits that accrue to gardeners, as well)– a very unusual viewpoint at this point in our society. Fred is a great model of being open-minded and -hearted as well a creative problem solver. At no point does he threaten violence toward the wild turkeys who invade his land (though he does take them on wild ride at one point). The fabulous illustrations are a large part of what make this lively tale so fun. One of my favorite pictures is of Fred and Buford, sharing the bed while Belle is away.
Too Many Turkeys is a great book for ages 5 and up.