The Great Turkey Walk

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Kathleen Karr is the author of many novels for young readers, most recently Man of the Family. She lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

In 1860, a somewhat simple-minded fifteen-year-old boy attempts to herd one thousand turkeys from Missouri to Denver, Colorado, in hopes of selling them at a profit.

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Kathleen Karr is the author of many novels for young readers, most recently Man of the Family. She lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

In 1860, a somewhat simple-minded fifteen-year-old boy attempts to herd one thousand turkeys from Missouri to Denver, Colorado, in hopes of selling them at a profit.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"I've always been fond of birds, poultry in particular." From that first sentence, readers will gobble up Karr's (Oh, Those Harper Girls!) hilarious novel of a boy who resolves to walk 1000 turkeys from the Show-Me state to Denver, Colorado. Simon, who's 15 and newly graduated from the third grade, may not be too bright, but he figures he can make his fortune by buying Mr. Buffey's bronze turkeys for a quarter apiece and selling them in Denver for $5 each. With his schoolteacher as an investor, Simon picks up a former drunk and a runaway slave to be his partners, and starts herding those turkeys 900 miles down the road. In their travels, they encounter a raging river and a swarm of locusts, each of which the turkeys conquer. But peskiest of all, they're tailed by Simon's no-good father, a circus strongman, who decides he wants in on the deal. The gifted Karr has a cheerful, sassy down-home writing style and a perfect pitch for dialogue (she also has an authoritative knowledge of poultry, having grown up on a New Jersey chicken farm). A bonus: the tale is based in truththere really were turkey drives in the American West. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) (PW best book of 1998)
To quote KLIATT's July 1998 review of the hardcover edition: Fifteen-year-old Simon Green may not excel at school—he's just finished third grade for the fourth time—but he's got strong muscles, a big heart, and lots of common sense. The year is 1860, and when Simon hears that turkeys are going for a high price in the boomtown of Denver, he hatches a scheme to drive a thousand of them across the prairie from his home in Missouri and make a small fortune. He takes along a scrappy mule drover (after drying him out) and his dog, and a runaway slave and an outspoken teenage girl join them. The small crew must deal with all kinds of obstacles on their turkey drive, ranging from Simon's long-lost turkey-rustling father to encounters with not-so-wild Indians, a storm of grasshoppers, and the U.S. cavalry, which tries to use the birds for target practice. Told from Simon's perspective in his folksy vernacular, this Wild West tale is full of adventure and humor. It's a delightful quick read that will appeal to reluctant readers, and an author's note at the end points out that it's based on fact: there were turkey drives as well as cattle drives back in the days of the Old West. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 1998, Farrar Straus & Giroux/Sunburst, 200p, 20cm, 97-38859, $4.95. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
When fifteen-year-old Simon Green completes the third grade for the fourth time, his teacher, Miss Rogers, tells him that it is time for him to move on-and out of school. He discovers that Mr. Buffey has one thousand extra turkeys. It is 1860, the West is just opening up, and the folks in the boomtown of Denver will pay a good price for fine turkeys. Since he has all the time in the world, Simon decides to set out on the thousand-mile trek from Missouri, herding those turkeys with the help of Mr. Peece. Along the way he makes friends with Jabeth, a runaway slave, and Lizzie, the sole survivor of a prairie homesteading family. They work together to overcome hardships such as turkey rustlers (one of whom is Simon's long-lost father) and a swarm of grasshoppers. With depth to her characters and a lightness to her telling, Karr's humorous adventure tale is a delight. Her fine research of the period is so deftly woven into the story that readers will easily absorb knowledge of pre-Civil War life in the American West. This adventure begs to be read aloud and shared, so make yourself comfortable, pull out a map, follow the turkey drive and watch as "simple" Simon spreads his wings.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8Fusing plot elements and modes of characterization or appropriate near-stereotypes from the tall tale, the comic novel, the melodrama, and the more literary Bildungsroman, The Great Turkey Walk is a charmer, from the immediate hook of its first chapter to its perfectly satisfying conclusion. The year is 1860, and "pea-brained" Simon Green, a brawny 15 year old, is "graduated" from school after his fourth year of third grade. Wondering what to do next, he seizes upon the complaint of a local turkey farmer: that birds worth $5 in turkey-starved boomtown Denver are worth only 25 cents in Missouri. With the financial assistance of his beloved former teacher and new business sponsor, who risks her life savings to help him, Simon buys 1000 birds. A few more minor loansa wagon, feed corn, four mulesand the partnership of a washed-up mule driver are all he needs to begin the 800-mile trek to Denver. Along the way, Simon matures from a good-hearted and sensible if not booksmart boy to a good-hearted, sensible, and potentially wealthy young man, and mule driver Bidwell Peece recovers his dignity. Joined en route by a runaway slave and the sole survivor of a homesteading family, Simon gains his first true friend and the girlfriend who may someday become his wife. Full of good humor and page-turning quest-style events, the story smacks of legend and archetype without seeming self-important, and it genuinely amuses readers rather that smugly proclaiming its wit. This novel begs to be read aloud.Coop Renner, Coldwell Elementary Intermediate School, El Paso, TX
Kirkus Reviews
Karr (Spy in the Sky, 1997, etc.) embellishes her reputation for spirited, comic adventures with this tale of a young entrepreneur who drives a thousand headþof turkeysþfrom Missouri to Denver in 1860. Strapping Simon Green can't pass third grade (he's tried four times), but he's a canny businessman: After learning that two-bit turkeys will sell for in Denver, he persuades his former teacher to bankroll him, hires a drunken muleskinner for help, and sets out, braving weather, rivers, rustlers, clouds of grasshoppers (not exactly a disaster, with a thousand turkeys to feed) and other hazards, picking up two orphansþone a fugitive slave, the other sole survivor of her settler familyþalong the way. Karr draws characters with a very broad brush, contrasting a bloodthirsty troop of US cavalry with a helpful band of Pottawattomieþ" `As official peacekeepers for our territory, we feel it incumbent upon ourselves to see that nothing unorthodox occurs on our lands' "þand supplying an inept, eminently boo-able villain in Samson, Simon's unscrupulous father. Not only do the turkeys practically herd themselves, they fetch an even higher price in Denver than Simon expects; in the end, with his new partners and a few dozen birds, he decides to try ranching. A wide-open western epic, inspired by actual drives and featuring a cast of capable young people. (Fiction. 10-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780788735226
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/7/2002
  • Format: Other
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years

Meet the Author

Kathleen Karr is the author of many novels for young readers, most recently Man of the Family. She lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2007

    I love this book!

    I just read this book and it's outstanding. I'm have way through it. When my mom tells me I have to go to bed I say just one more paragraph. She'll say, no then I say a sentence, she'll say no. Then I say a word, and somtimes I can but the I do a paragraph instead.I like is book so much my mom has to come to cheak on me because I read at night.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2006

    I definetly recommend it.

    It was a great book I read it because I was in a book club, my teacher said that it was a great book and it was. It was about a 15 year old boy named Simon Green traveling all the way from Missouri to Denver with a thousend turkeys and on his way he meet a few friends and foes. It was a good book thats all i will tell you about it now you have to read it to find out the rest.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2003

    A Double Peck of Fun!

    I read this book about a year ago, and have laughed about it many times since. A Determined boy sets out at the greatest odds to herd a thousand turkeys to Denver- and picks up a few friends and foes along the way. The plot is quick and fun, and the characters are real people you can relate to. It makes you wonder- could I do something like that? Good and wholesome reading for all ages.

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