Archive | November 2015

The Turkey Mystery Rhyme by Moe Zilla

A funny turkey ebook

Yes, it’s that once-a-year tradition, sharing this funny free ebook about turkeys — mine! It’s a fun short mystery that’s written entirely in rhyme, with 12 cartoon-y illustrations that tell the story of four turkeys on Thanksgiving Day waiting for the farmer’s axe. (“But one of the turkeys has a plan to escape!” read’s the book’s description at Amazon. “Can the farmer figure out which one? And can you?”)

For a shortcut to this free Thanksgiving ebook, just point your browser to

It’s called “The Turkey Mystery Rhyme,” and it was a real labor of love. (For five days every November, I make it available for free in Amazon’s Kindle Store.) Over the years the ebook has even had some strange adventures of its own. The day after I published it, I’d discovered that my turkeys had snuck onto Amazon’s list of the best-selling children’s ebooks about animals – and stolen the #73 spot from a book about Curious George!

And my friends surprised me one year by insisting that we all read the whole ebook out loud on Thanksgiving Day. They’d connected their widescreen TV to their computer, so it was mirroring whatever appeared on its desktop, and then they’d pulled up Amazon’s Kindle app on that computer, and led it to The Turkey Mystery Rhyme. It was a great way to get some real reactions to the story, especially since most authors never get to actually be in the room while their ebook is being read! And then we all took turns reading the rhyming story out loud.

“For Thanksgiving, try this game. Find the guilty turkey’s name…”

I remember we had a teenager in the room, and his mother asked if he knew which turkey had launched the daring plan for escape. But that mother was a sharp cookie, and she challenged one of the book’s important fictional premises.

Fearing folks on every street
hungering for turkey meat,
In the farmer’s yard’s a spread
where Thanksgiving turkeys bred.

When the daylight brightly broke
all the farmer’s birds awoke.
And, since it’s a holiday,
all turkeys can talk today…

“What?!!” she said, to laughter from the room. “Since when can turkeys talk on Thanksgiving Day?”

Everyone knows that,” I joked. “You’ve just never been on a farm…” And then we laughed some more, and continued reading…

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Read the free rhyming Thanksgiving turkey mystery at

The Great Pig Escape by Eileen Christelow

The Great Pig Escape by Christelow

It’s based on a true story – just like Steve McQueen’s “Great Escape” – but with pigs! According to the book’s jacket, the author of The Great Pig Escape read a story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette about a farmer who was taking his pigs to a livestock auction, and discovered they’d all escaped from the back of his truck. (“After the farmer discovered his loss, he retraced his trip and found all of his pigs in various parts of town, miraculously unhurt.”) Author Eileen Christlelow saw potential for a good children’s book, but she also decided to make a few changes in the story.

Bert and Ethel live together on a farm, and one day Bert suggests that they raise pigs.  “Sounds like trouble to me,” says Ethel, but Bert buys six piglets anyways, and even Ethel admits that they’re cute. After a while, she’s the one who’s warning Bert not to hurt their feelings. She even shushes Bert when he says “Eight months from now they’ll be pork chops, so don’t go falling in love with them…”

And when Bert announces to Ethel that he’ll sell the pigs at the market the next day, she warns, “Sh-h-h! They’ll hear you!” Sure enough, all the pigs immediately stop slurping, and that night there’s some extra oinking in the pigpen. (“Sounds like they’re planning something,” warns Ethel…) Because Christlelow wrote and illustrated the book, she can hide extra jokes in the pictures. The next day Bert complains that he can’t find the bolt to lock his truck’s tailgate – but in the bottom corner of a picture, there’s a smiling pig prancing off with the bolt in his mouth!

It’s genuinely exciting when their big break-out comes. The pigs chew through the rope that Bert uses to tie the tailgate, and “As they bumped and rattled down the road toward town, the rope snapped… But Bert and Ethel didn’t notice.” When the couple stops for gas, two pigs scoot out and under a nearby fence. At each stop, more pigs scoot off into the scenery – and it seems like every pig has a smile on its face.

Christlelow’s simple, cartoon-like illustrations keep the story light, with just enough realism to make you root for the escaping pigs. Using watercolors and pen-and-ink drawings, she shows the farmer’s red truck, stopping for the blur of a speeding locomotive rushing past. At the edge of the drawing, two little pigs hop eagerly onto the road, and head off onto another farm. But by the end of the book, they’ve done something even more clever.

They’ve stolen clothes and disguised themselves – and then caught a bus for Florida!

Peepers, by Eve Bunting

Peepers, by Eve Bunting

“Sparkle it up, boys… The Leaf Peepers are coming.” A little boy’s father drives a green bus for tourists to see the autumn colors around New England. His sons have to help wash the bus and conduct the tours. They’re reluctant passengers — but gradually discover that the bright-colored trees still look spectacular.

Eve Bunting wrote the text for The Leaf Peepers, and even the names of the trees sound attractive. There’s bright red sugar maples and shagbark hickory trees. Aspens shower gold in the water of a pond. It’s surrounded by speckled alder and red-feathered sumac. A beaver pops up, making a circle of ripples, which even impresses the boys, “because beavers don’t pop up that often…”

The tour visits an old cemetery, with headstones from 1772. (“Beeches and quaking aspens bend above the gravestones…”) The boys play leapfrog over the headstone markers. Their father scolds them, and says show some respect. And the tour rambles along, along with the boys’ own adventure…

James Ransome drew some great illustrations of the fall colors. There’s bright orange pumpkins on the title page – matching the orange of the autumn leaves. On the next page there’s more colorful trees around an orange covered bridge. He always seems to find the perfect pallet for his illustrations, using rich maize yellows and a bright orange-red.

Bunting dedicates the book to her son Sloan, “who loves nature,” and she does a good job of making the little boys seem believable. They see a pile of leaves on the water which they playfully call “Leaf Island ,” but they know that you can’t stand on it. “We’ve tried.” Yet the leaves still look pretty in the corner of Ransome’s illustration – which show the two looking down into the water. At one point, one of the boys even pretends to be a moose.

My favorite illustration shows an overhead view of a field where pumpkins grow. “They’re the color of leaves,” says one of the tourists. “Or else the leaves are the color of the pumpkins.” But the words appear in the sky over a tree-covered mountain. At its base are the houses of town, surrounded by trees, and an old-fashioned steeple.

And there’s another breath-taking illustration of the family’s house in the white autumn sky. It looks like an Edward Hopper painting, with rich angles and a stark light with shadows. Most of the leaves have fallen from its trees. On the doorstep, there’s a tiny pumpkin, and their mother has put up some dried corn stalks.

And by the end of the book the boys have realized that the night sky…is very beautiful.