Thanksgiving reading to fight hunger leads a full plate of seasonal charmers

BOOKS FOR KIDS

November 18, 1994|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Sun Staff Writer

Perhaps one branch of the family can't make it to Grandma's for Thanksgiving. Maybe you've been invited to a friend's Thanksgiving feast, and the cook insists there's nothing you can bring.

Here's a gift that ships well and that even the most generous host won't decline: "The Greatest Table: A Banquet to Fight Hunger," written and edited by Michael J. Rosen (Harcourt Brace & Co., $18.95, all ages).

It's a 12-foot-long accordion book, and each fold features illustrations by some of the best children's book artists working today. Sixteen of them, along with Mr. Rosen, have donated their work to this project. All of their royalties from "The Greatest nTC Table" go to Share Our Strength, a hunger relief organization based in Washington.

The book comes in a beautifully designed slipcase, and is best appreciated when stretched across the living room floor for all to admire on hands and knees.

The title page sets the stage. Richard McGuire introduces a flock of folks from all over the world bearing gifts of food. The artists who follow share scenes of families, friends -- even strangers in a diner -- sharing food and company.

Patricia Polacco's babushka presides over a multi-ethnic Passover Seder; Brian Pinkney's African-American family picnics in a park with the Manhattan skyline behind them; Chris Van Allsburg's infant in a high chair is caught in mid- tantrum, spilling Pablum everywhere; Floyd Cooper's Japanese family kneels serenely before a table setting that has grace in its space and simplicity.

All the illustrations are distinctive, and other artists contributing are Victoria Chess, Guy Billout, Diane Goode, David Wiesner, Dena Schutzer, Kevin Hawkes, Eve Chwast, Anita Lobel, Robert Sabuda, Lois Ehlert and Lisa Campbell Ernst.

Below the illustrations runs Mr. Rosen's poem about a shared feast,

where:

Baskets mound with crusty breads,

there's soup in simmering pots,

and bushels brim year-round with fruit --

now pears, now apricots.

The final stanza says it all:

So if you're hungry, join us here,

pull up another chair.

We'll all scoot over, make more room;

there's always some to spare.

"The Greatest Table" is available in most bookstores or can be ordered from Share Our Strength, (800) 222-1767.

* Illustrator Ashley Wolff went to Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts to do the research for "Goody O'Grumpity," by Carol Ryrie Brink (North-South Books, $14.95, 32 pages, ages 3-5).

The text is a poem written by Brink (1895-1981), who won the 1936 Newbery Medal for "Caddie Woodlawn." Ms. Wolff, whose books include "A Year of Beasts," "Come With Me" and "Only the Cat Saw," illustrates the poem with warm, spice-colored linoleum prints filled with details from the time of the Pilgrims.

Goody O'Grumpity is a hefty, gray-haired woman in white bonnet and apron. She is known throughout the colonial settlement for her baking prowess:

When Goody O'Grumpity baked a cake

The tall reeds danced by the mournful lake,

The pigs came nuzzling out of their pens,

The dogs ran sniffing and so did the hens,

So did all the children, crowding 'round Goody as she kneads the dough and then carries the cake to the village's clay oven. Readers can close their eyes and breathe in the "cinnamon bark and lemon rind, and round, brown nutmegs grated fine."

From Plymouth Plantation, Ms. Wolff obtained a 17th-century recipe for spice cake that she used as the basis for a recipe at the back of the book.

Ms. Wolff's fans will be happy to know that her border collie, as usual, is front-and-center in several of the illustrations.

* What's Thanksgiving without a tribute to turkeys? "Mrs. Tittle's Turkey Farm," by Lois G. Grambling, illustrations by Ellen Joy Sasaki (Thomasson-Grant, $9.95, 28 pages, ages 4-7), is goofy enough to tickle any kid's gizzard.

Mrs. Tittle names all of the turkeys on her turkey farm, but she's stumped and can't come up with one for the star of the book, whom she simply calls Turkey. Turkey isn't the smartest bird on the farm, but he knows he's got to figure a way to make sure the customers who visit before Thanksgiving won't pick him for their feast.

One night, a thief shows up on the farm, and Turkey saves the day, chasing him away. As the thief flees, he shouts, "That's some tough turkey!" and Mrs. Tittle decides that's the perfect name for her new-found hero. So Turkey becomes Some Tough Turkey.

Whenever a customer stops by the farm and inquires about him, Mrs. Tittle says, "Oh yes, that's Some Tough Turkey." Needless to say, he never has to worry about someone taking him home for Thanksgiving dinner.

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