"But don't worry; all turns out well in this simple, easy-to-digest holiday fare." Booklist
"Amusing episodes will keep readers yearning for more." Children's Literature
This year, instead of celebrating Thanksgiving in the family's traditional way by eating pizza in their pajamas, nine-year-old Katie wants to create the perfect holiday and be just like a "real" family. But by Thanksgiving Day, Katie has invited guests Dad didn't expect, festooned the house with what may be poison oak, and set the sweet potatoes on fire. Ultimately everyone sits down to a most unusual dinner--one that succeeds because it comes from the heart.
"Amusing episodes will keep readers yearning for more." Children's Literature
My Socks Don't Match
Dad and Tyler and I like our Thanksgivings easy. Dad says that was always true—even before he and Mom got divorced and she went off to be Roxanne Winter, the famous country and western singer. He says that on Thanksgiving we're supposed to wear our pajamas till noon. We eat popcorn, make pizza, and watch the football game on TV.
Dad says our way is a fine way to celebrate a national holiday.
When I found out he might be wrong, it was almost too late—less than two weeks before Thanksgiving. Claire Plummer and I were walking home after school. She had just pointed out that my socks didn't match.
"One is red, and one is orange," I said. "So?"
"Kids like you and me—without mothers at home," Claire said, "have to do things perfectly."
Count on Claire to know what was perfect. Claire had been acting perfect ever since second grade—back when her mother died. I stomped my tennis shoes through a puddle. Of course, she was wearing boots.
Claire twirled her sky-blue umbrella and tossed her blond curls—her perfect blond curls. "My father says that when you don't have a mother, people notice socks. They also notice when your hair needs cutting."
"No, they don't," I said. I shook my long bangs out of my eyes.
"And then they say things like 'poor child, she has no mother.'"
"This is a very boring conversation," I said.
"Nobody's going to 'poor child' me. Do you know why?"
I sighed. "Why?"
"My father and I are inviting forty people for Thanksgiving dinner."
I screeched to a halt. I stared at her. "No way!"
"Take a look, smarty." She shrugged out of one strap of her periwinkle blue backpack and unzipped it. Of course, her zipper still worked.
She pulled out a roll of paper and held it under her umbrella to keep it out of the rain. As she unrolled it, I saw name after name in Claire's perfect handwriting.
All at once, I envied Claire Plummer, holding that list on that long roll of paper. I could hardly stand it. The only thing Claire and I had in common—besides not having mothers around—was that we both liked to make lists.
"What are your plans for Thanksgiving?" she asked.
I couldn't mention pajamas and football and pizza. I decided to lie. I couldn't help it. "We've asked a few people," I said. "Not forty."
"Guess you can't come to our dinner then."
Claire pulled out a pencil and drew thick lines through three names on her list. Dad's. Tyler's. Mine.
"Wait a minute," I said.
She looked up. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing," I answered. I watched her tuck everything back into her pack.
"We weren't sure about inviting your little brother anyway," she said. "He's so messy."
"I bet you spilled when you were three, Claire Plummer."
"I never needed newspapers all over the table. Are your invitations done?"
"We're on top of things," I said. Another lie. At last, we turned the corner of Benson Street.
"I'm excited. Only thirteen days left till Thanksgiving, Katie." Claire looked both ways and ran across the street to her house.
I ran up on my porch and zigzagged around the wading pool toys, Dad's bike, and Tyler's stroller. I could hear Tyler inside hollering one of his happy songs—the cement mixer song.
I decided to forget about Thanksgiving.CHAPTER 2
Five minutes later, the doorbell rang. "Get it, Katie," Dad called. He was hunched over his computer in the room he'd turned into his office. And, naturally, Tyler was so busy racing his cement mixer across the couch cushions, he never looked up.
It was Claire. She held a magazine out to me like it was something precious. "Beautiful Living," she said, her voice full of respect. "We had an extra."
I put my hands behind my back.
"It tells what to do for Thanksgiving. My father said we really needed it. You, Katie, need it more than we do."
"I don't think so."
She fluttered the pages at me. "It has guest lists, menu lists, grocery lists, decorations lists, to-do lists."
"Lists?" I reached for the magazine. It stunk of perfume. "I don't want this," I said, trying to hand it back. But Claire was staring at the floor. "It really shows," she said.
"No mother here. This floor is dirty!"
I tossed the magazine at her. "It's been raining. We track stuff in."
Claire pressed the magazine to her chest as if I'd broken the thing. "I brought this for your own good," she said. "So people wouldn't feel sorry."
"Hello, Claire," Dad said. He stood in the hallway with his coffee cup in his hand. "How's your dad?"
"This year, we're doing Thanksgiving the way we used to," Claire said. "My father's already practiced the turkey." She handed the magazine to Dad. "He wanted you and Katie to have this," she said. "He gets good ideas from it."
"Thanks," Dad said. "We could probably use some ideas." He tucked the magazine under his arm.
Claire went partway out the door and then turned back. She waved her umbrella at the toys on the porch steps. "I almost fell," she said.
Dad peered out the door. "You almost fell?"
"A mother would have picked those up," she said.
"Good-bye, Claire." I tugged Dad's sleeve to get him back in and slammed the door. "I wish you didn't make me walk with her," I said.
"It's safer in pairs," Dad said. "I hope you're nice to Claire."
"I'm nice to her. But it's not easy."
Dad looked at Claire's magazine. On the cover, a brown crusty turkey filled a huge silver platter. Dressed-up people stared at it, their mouths all saying, "Ohhhhh."
He handed the magazine to me. "I like pizza for Thanksgiving."
"Me, too," I said.
"You should take this back to Claire," he said.
"Tomorrow." In my room, I tossed the magazine into a pile of papers and turned my radio on to the country and western station in case they played one of Mom's songs.
Sometimes they played my favorite, the one about letters from home. That song made Mom think about me. She had told me so.
Later, I helped Dad fix supper. All our meals were Dad's famous ones, recipes he made up. Tonight it was his famous toasted tuna salad sandwiches. He lifted the plate of sandwiches over his head and carried it to the table just like a French waiter.
"Wait till you taste these. I put in green chilies," he called.
I could hardly hear over Tyler's new song. "Big engine goes," Tyler roared, "va-room, va-room, va-room." He pounded his fork on his newspapers.
If we ever had forty people for dinner, what would they think about Tyler? "The Plummers," I yelled, "are inviting forty people for Thanksgiving."
Dad sat down and draped a towel across Tyler's front. "Good for them," he said. "Mr. Plummer is very organized. He also doesn't work for Harold Flagstaff. Mr. Flagstaff has hired me to write a big report, and it's due the night before Thanksgiving."
"Claire said if we don't do Thanksgiving right, people might feel sorry for us."
"Feel sorry?" Dad asked. "Why?"
Tyler squeezed his sandwich and tuna juice dribbled out onto his sleeve. And then he licked it off.
"It's like we're not really a family," I said.
"We have a real family here," Dad said, "even if your mother and I are divorced." He set his sandwich down and leaned toward me. "Harold Flagstaff pays the bills for this real family. As long I write reports for him, we get to eat."
After we finished dinner, Dad scooped Tyler up in his arms. "Time to wash off the dinner," he said. He looked at me. "Join us at the bathtub? Big race tonight. The ducks against the boats."
"Come on, Katie," Tyler said. "We can race Dad."
"Oh, no." Dad shivered in fear. "The two of you against poor me?"
He was right to fear us. Tyler, the ducks, and I beat him and the boats, three times out of four.CHAPTER 3
Twelve Days and Counting
Saturday morning, when Dad brought in the newspaper, he brought in one of Claire's gloves. "She must have dropped it," he said. "Why don't you take it over to her? Take that magazine back, too."
"I can do it Monday," I said, "on the way to school." I was busy right then, drawing a Thanksgiving picture for homework. I had the Pilgrims and Indians playing Frisbee and softball. I had Tyler in there, too, but I still needed to draw Dad and me. Plus some kids from fourth grade.
"She could use a visit from a friend."
"Claire doesn't have friends," I said. I drew a big dish of blueberries in front of Tyler and colored his face blue.
"Ahem," Dad said.
I put down the blue crayon. "Okay, okay."
When Claire opened the door, I smelled chicken soup mixed with fresh paint. I handed over her glove. But I'd forgotten the magazine.
Claire's face was pink with excitement. "Come see our turkey," she said. "My father and I made it for the roof. It's going to glow in the dark up there!"
In their family room, the smell of paint plugged my nose. A huge plywood turkey stood beside the patio doors. Its beady eye glared down at us.
"The pattern in the magazine was little," Claire said. "My father enlarged it."
"It got big, all right." My neck ached from looking up at that mean eye.
"I love getting ready for Thanksgiving," Claire said. She tugged me into the kitchen where good smells bubbled out of a pot on the shining stove.
"Chicken soup?" I asked.
"More than soup," Claire said. "It's one of our dinners for next week." She tapped a list that hung on the refrigerator door. "Monday, Chicken Tomato. Wednesday, Zesty Hummerburgers. Friday, Macaroni Puffaroni. My father makes the exact same things my mother used to make. What are you having?"
"Don't know yet," I said. "Dad decides five minutes before we eat."
Claire frowned as if she didn't believe me. Then she pulled me over to a counter that was stacked with cookbooks and recipes. "Here's what we're planning for Thanksgiving dinner," she said. She held up a paper that had bunches of words on it, some crossed off, some added in. "We have fifteen different things to eat so far," she said. "Of course the turkey is the most important."
"Turkeys aren't so great," I said. "We're having ..." I stopped. All at once, pizza didn't sound special enough. "I should get back now," I said. "Tyler wants me to play cars."
"You have to play baby stuff with him?" Her nose wrinkled up.
"Goodbye, Claire." I zipped up my coat.
"Just one more thing," Claire said. "We found really nice Thanksgiving invitations." She pulled me into the dining room.
Someone had folded back the yellow tablecloth to make room for orange envelopes and brown and orange cards. Please Come, the cards said on the fronts. "I'm doing the insides," Claire said. She opened one and I saw an address and phone number written in her perfect handwriting. "Too bad you won't get one of these," she said.
I looked at the heap of invitations. I almost wished we were still invited. Then I remembered my lie. "We can't," I said. "Company."
"Who are you inviting?"
"Oh," I said, "you wouldn't know them." I pushed past her into the hall.
"Who?" she asked.
I yanked open her front door. "I have to go home now."
"Only twelve days left," she sang.
I ran across the street.CHAPTER 4
"Don't Even THINK about Company!"
When I got home, I stepped over the toys on our porch and the dirt and leaves on the floor in the hall. But I didn't see the Legos. I slipped and fell down. My elbow whammed the closet door. "Dad!" I yelled.
"In the kitchen," he called back.
I walked a narrow path between toys and newspapers and jackets and shoes. In our kitchen, the stove did not shine. Grocery bags, cans of spices, and cereal boxes spilled across the counters. The sink held three banana peels, Tyler's toast edges, and five old coffee filters.
"I slipped on some Legos," I said. "My elbow's broken."
"Rub it," Dad said. "It'll feel better." He poured hot water from the kettle, making another cup of coffee. "Tyler's dump truck had a serious accident. We should close the highway."
"Claire is right," I said. I couldn't believe I was saying such a thing out loud.
Dad wasn't listening. He stirred the coffee grounds with the tip of a knife and added more water. He sniffed at his mug and smiled. "Ahh," he said.
"Claire's house looks nice," I said. "Like a real family lives there. You can walk around without falling on things."
"No three-year-old at that house." Dad sipped and swallowed. "Makes a difference." He sighed. "We'll pick up things later. Right now, I've got this deadline. This report."
"It's okay, Dad. Except ..."
He raised his eyebrows.
"They've got food cooking. And invitations. And decorations." I picked up a banana peel and tossed it into the trash.
He set his mug on the counter and stared into it. "Maybe they want everything to be the way it was before Claire's mother died," he said. "Before the accident."
"Because they miss her?"
I thought about that. "We miss Mom, too," I said. "She's been gone three years. But at least she's alive. We still get to see her ..."
"Your mom is doing something hard, trying to be a professional singer." Dad put his arm around me. "But she loves it. You know that she loves you and Tyler, too."
"I wish we could see her more." I blinked at something in my eye.
He cleared his throat. "Christmas. You'll be with her then. At your grandma's."
I pushed my nose into Dad's flannel shirt and smelled coffee and books and sadness about Mom. "If she was here," I said, "we'd do Thanksgiving better."
"Maybe." He tipped my head up so I was looking at him. "Aren't we doing okay without her?"
"Most of the time, we do fine," I told him. "But we should plan something special."
"At least we should dress up," I said. "Mom gave me a dress last Christmas."
Dad nodded. "I remember it."
"I think it's in my closet," I said.
He smoothed my bangs out of my eyes. "Wear your dress. But I really like wearing pajamas on Thanksgiving."
I shook my bangs back down. "The Pilgrims didn't wear pajamas. They dressed up and cooked special food. They had company."
"You forget Flagstaff's report," he said. "It's due Wednesday night. I'll be working on it all week. If we have to celebrate, we can't do it on Thursday. We'll do it the next Saturday. Or Sunday."
"Thanksgiving dinner has to be on Thanksgiving Day." I grabbed another banana peel and threw it in the trash. "I like planning things. I planned your birthday last summer."
"You're a great planner." He patted the top of my head and grinned. "All right," he said. "Plan dinner for us. Plan decorations. But no company. Don't even THINK about company."
As he went down the hall to his office, I pushed breakfast dishes to the other end of the big table. I found a pencil and pad of yellow paper.
"DECORATIONS," I wrote. I'd draw things. That would be easy! I'd get out my big roll of paper and draw Pilgrims and Indians and turkeys. Put them up in every room. I wrote "Pilgrims. Indians. Turkeys."
New piece of paper.
"WHAT TO WEAR." I tapped my pencil. "Me—my dress. Find it." I stared down the hall toward Dad's office. Would he change his mind? No, he wouldn't. I wrote, "Dad—best pajamas. NOT purple smiley-face ones. Tyler—train jammies." He loved his train jammies. He had four sets of them.
"FOOD. Popcorn. Pizza (Dad's famous)." I pictured it. Extra melty cheese for me. Heaps of onions and garlic for Dad. Whole black olives for Tyler to wear on his fingers. Yum! I couldn't decide on the best dessert. Strawberry ice cream sandwiches? Lemon-yogurt popsicles? I wrote them both down. On such a special day, we would have two desserts.
Before I reached for the next sheet of paper, I thought a long time. My decorations were terrific. My food was wonderful. If only we could have company!
I made sure Dad was in his office where he couldn't see me, and then I wrote two words in big, dark letters:
Excerpted from Turkey Monster Thanksgiving by Anne Warren Smith. Copyright © 2003 Anne Warren Smith. Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Anne Warren Smith grew up in Ticonderoga, a paper mill town in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. The author of several novels for children, including Turkey Monster Thanksgiving and Tails of Spring Break, she lives in Corvallis, Oregon.
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