Title: The Great Turkey Walk
Author: Kathleen Karr
Major Themes: American West, Pioneers, Travel, Turkeys, Gold Rush, Colorado, Family Read-alouds, Historical Fiction, US History 1783-1860, Books for Boys
Synopsis: After Simon finishes third grade for the fourth time, his teacher advises him to strike out and find his place in the world.
Some books are just plain fun to read. The Great Turkey Walk has been a family favorite ever since we first read it, over ten years ago. I have now read it aloud some three or four times—and we have loved it every time! It includes comedy, the underdog coming out on top, thugs getting what they deserve and justice winning…and even a little bit of romance. It’s a wonderful story!
Simon Green has just finished the third grade for the fourth time at the age of 15, and Miss Rogers figures he should quit school and find his way in the world. What can he do? Then, he gets a wonderful idea. The year is 1860, and there are gold miners in Denver who need food and will pay a premium price for it, and the neighbor, here in Missouri, has a thousand turkeys that he can’t find a market for. Can Simon walk those turkeys to Denver and make his fortune? He sets out to figure out how.
Soon, Simon is on his way west, with a thousand turkeys, a team of mules and a wagon of corn, and the sobered-up drunkard mule skinner he found in town, along with the man’s dog. Soon, they’ve picked up a runaway slave and a pair of rustlers are on their heels. Then, they run into wild Indians, the U.S. Cavalry, and a plague of grasshoppers—and find a girl out of her mind with grief. Can Simon’s pea-brain (so described by his aunt in Missouri) cope with all this?
As I said, we love this story. The way Simon looks at life is very fun, and his mule skinner has wise counsel for life. As far as history goes, there is a kernel of truth behind this story—but mostly it’s just a fun adventure! I predict we’ll be reading this story several more times before the children all leave home.
WARNING: Chapter 1: darned. Chapter 2: son of a gun, man drunk, tarnation, who the devil. Chapter 3: Hades only knew, darn, godawful, where the dicken’s, what in thunder. Chapter 4: son of a gun. Chapter 6: woman at the circus with not much clothing on, more “near-naked ladies,” “that near-naked lady on the swing,” who the devil. Chapter 8: a blamed thing, I swear, damnation, what devilish fiend. Chapter 9: hate like blazes, what in tarnation, betting, lady dressed like the one in the circus. Chapter 11: son of a gun, what in thunder, shooting someone in the arm, blamed heads, tarnation. Chapter 12: dang, soldier talking about shooting Indians, fistfight. Chapter 13: son of a gun, girl tempted to kill herself. Chapter 15: I swear to heaven, kissing a girl
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15