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How to Write Like a Professional
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

PB 14:14 Day 13: CHARACTER with "Too Many Turkeys"

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I know, I know, I did CHARACTER several days back. It's all good, though. This book is just as awesome. I actually had a hard time deciding on which element to feature. Character? Conflict? Plot? Dialogue? Theme? They're all in here! But character took the prize because of the turkeys! There are just too many turkeys, and I hope you don't think that 14 days of blogging about picture books is too many days. Only one day left.

TitleToo Many Turkeys
Author: Linda Arms White
Illustrator: Megan Lloyd
Publisher: Holiday House
Year: 2010
Words: 1000?

I find that I buy more of someone's books if I have met the author. I actually met Linda Arms White and Laura Backes when they teamed up and did a Bootcamp course in Charlotte, NC in 2010. Side note: want to sell more books? SPEAK!!! Anywhere for any purpose - as long as it's related to writing and literacy.

So, who's the main character in this fun little tale? The turkeys, of course! No, really. Okay, it's either Fred or his wife, Belle, or their uninvited pet turkey, Buford. If you go by who leaves more of a lasting impression, it's definitely not Belle. She's absent for most of the story. Some people might argue that her garden could possibly be another character. It does seem to take on a life of its own throughout the story.

Summary: Belle has the best garden and the best yard in the neighborhood. When it's time for her to go away to her annual birdhouse convention, Fred is left behind to tend the garden.

But one day,
a female turkey wanders into the yard. Fred says, "Shoo! Run along. We've already got us a turkey." Right away, we hear Fred's voice. The next day, the hen came back with dozens of her friends. Fred tries to run them off by flapping his arms at them and yelling, "Outta there!" He tries to drive them away with his loud music, but they start dancing instead.
Fred finally fluttered his "wings," waggled his knees, and turkey-trotted those birds right back into the woods.  
"Don't come back!" he yelled.
Just like a kid, right? The main characters have to be childlike. No child wants to read or hear the story about a stuffy old adult. So Fred fits that childlike quality to a T.



But those crazy turkeys keep coming back and eating Belle's garden and making "an infernal mess" of things. The whole time, Buford is by Fred's side helping him out. They drive the turkeys in the bed of the truck far, far away. But they still find their way back. The next morning, Fred woke up to hundreds of turkeys swarming the yard.

All the neighbors are desperate to know Belle's secret. And Fred gives in. Just to get rid of the turkeys. But I can't give away the ending. This book is too good. Like I said, it has character, theme, plot, conflict, and dialogue. That's HALF of the Top 10 Elements.

Katie Wood Ray, author and educator, says, "Slowing down lets writers apprentice themselves very deliberately to other writers." So when we type out a published story we like, we become an apprentice to the mentor author. We soak in their knowledge and learn by the act of copying. Pretty soon, you'll find your own voice.

According to readwritethink.org, there are three elements to characterization (with a nifty character map): appearance, actions/behavior, and interactions with others. It's interesting how Fred reacts to the turkeys and vice versa. This is part of his character. I find it's often helpful when writing a new story, or especially after writing that first draft, to really study a good PB to help us with the part of our own ms we're struggling with. I think my own weakness is character and conflict. In real life, I avoid conflict. But books have to have it. Else there's no plot driving the story forward. That's why I'm going to look into this list of PBs that have strong characters. The books on the list range from 1989 to 2007. It's kind of old for books, but I'm sure the premise behind a solid character still stands.

Only one day left! Make today and tomorrow count. Keep on keepin' on...

3 comments:

  1. Delightful suspense with the turkeys, Christie, so now I have to go find this book. Hope my library has it. Great points on character, especially the three aspects: appearance, behavior, and interaction. Thanks for the review. (Mine today is character, also.)
    - Damon

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  2. It's amazing how that's happened a few times - several of us teaching the same "lessons." The good thing is that the bulk, if not all, of the appearance will usually be showcased through illustrations. Still, there might be a few phrases that imply certain characteristics.

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  3. I'm not fond of turkeys however this book seems like a fun way to read about them instead of avoiding being in their beady eye. Thank you :)

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