Notes from the Wild : Turnip Trouble

It’s been a wee bit since I did one of these posts, but I had a most entertaining and educational experience recently that was absolutely tailor-made for an edition of Notes from the Wild.

It all started with a group of preschoolers and a Jan Thomas picture book, which would normally have made for a winning combination. Thomas’s picture books are story time perfection, and I’d had great success sharing them with the group in previous story times. The book I’d chosen, A Birthday for Cow, is similar in formula to the massively popular Is That Wise, Pig? Mouse, Pig and Duck are making a birthday cake for their friend Cow, but Duck keeps trying to ruin things by putting a turnip in the mix! The comedic twist reveals that turnips are actually Cow’s favourite​ food, and that Duck knew what he was doing all along.

I read the first few pages, expecting to be met with peals of laughter.

What I got instead was…..



Silence and bemused expressions.

I couldn’t understand it. They’d loved all the other Jan Thomas picture books. Why was this one falling flat?!

And then it hit me.

“ Does everyone know what a turnip is?”


Makes sense, of course. We never ate turnips at home when I was a child, and I certainly wouldn’t have known what a turnip was when I was four years old, either, but I’ve been a grown-up for so long that I’d forgotten!

So, take it from me and make sure to read through your picture books with a careful eye before you share them with a group, and make note of any terms that might not be familiar to your audience. Taking a moment to explain unfamiliar words will help your audience enjoy the story better, and  you’ll also be helping them add new words to their vocabulary! Everybody wins!

And no more tumbleweeds.