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The Gigantic Turnip (Barefoot Beginners) Hardcover – February 1, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Up-to-the-minute illustrations and graphic design serve as the new-fangled foil to the well-known Russian folktale. The text has a familiar, classic cadence; the publisher says that Tolstoy was the first to record the story, in the 19th century. The eponymous turnip, as many readers will already know, grows to colossal size and won't budge from the ground, forcing an elderly farmer couple to seek assistance from a succession of barn animals in order to pull it out. Working in a style reminiscent of Yumi Heo's for its flatness and angularity, Sharkey (Tales of Wisdom and Wonder) produces figures with beady eyes, spindly limbs and small, delineated smiles. They toil against a stark, elemental landscape that is mostly sky. The text itself takes on visual prominence, displayed centrally in large type, sometimes curving, sometimes magnified for effect. The animals (e.g., the two pot-bellied pigs, the three black cats, the four speckled hens) caper acrobatically, while the turnip itself is depicted as monumentally spherical as a planet. Two recent versions of this tale, Jan Peck and Barry Root's The Giant Carrot and Vladimir Vagin's The Enormous Carrot, build momentum right up to the ending, when all the animals share in a boisterous feast; here, the climactic moment comes earlier, when the turnip is finally dislodged. Sharkey's pacing creates a circular balance: the story begins calmly and ends calmly, with plenty of fun in between. Ages 2-5.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 2-There is no shortage of versions of this popular Russian folktale, including Jan Peck's recent variant, The Giant Carrot (Dial, 1998). However, this retelling is more complex, so it won't work with very young audiences. The cumulative action centers on an old man and old woman and all of the animals who try to help them uproot a gigantic turnip. In the end, it is a tiny mouse that swings the balance, and all enjoy a hearty turnip supper. Sharkey's illustrations call to mind Brian Karas's work, offering a lot of quirky visual details shown in earthy browns, greens, and yellows on scratchy solid backgrounds. The round old man has spectacles precariously perched on his nose, the old woman sports elfish shoes and striped stockings, the rounded rectangle of a cow chomps on delicate flowers, and the potbellied pigs trod on tiny hooves. The pictures are big enough for a small storytime and kids will find plenty to look at in one-to-one sharing.
Sally Bates Goodroe, Harris County Public Library, Houston, TX
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 and up
  • Series: Barefoot Beginner
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Barefoot Books (February 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1902283120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1902283128
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.8 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,276,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There are probably a dozen or more versions of this very old Russian folk tale floating around at this time, some are illustrated versions such as we have here, others can be found in anthologies in various formats. This particular version was recorded by Aleksei Tolstoy in the 19th century and is as good as most and better than some. A lot depends upon the taste of the individual as to which version is the best. I personally am rather fond of this one due to the fact it was illustrated by Niamh Sharkey and she is quirky enough to appeal to my quirky tastes.

This is an accumulative tale which starts with an old couple planting heir garden. The garden grows and it is time to harvest. All goes well until the very last turnip; the one at the end of the row, is ready to be pulled. Folks, this is one very big turnip! The old man get up one morning and decides it is time to gather that last turnip and goes to pull it up...no luck...it is just too big. The old woman joins him...still, they are unable to remove the big veggie from the garden. And here the tale actually begins in earnest.

One by one, group by group, all of the farm animals lend a hand. Each page adds another critter or group of critters trying to help the old man and woman. This finally includes the old man and woman, the big brown cow, the two pot-bellied pigs, the three black cats, the four speckled hens, the five white geese, the six yellow canaries and finally, when all else fails, the old woman gets the little hungry mouse who lives in their house to lend a hand.

There are little lessons to be learned in this work and they are delightfully presented not only by a very nice select wording, but by some wonderful illustrations.

Now reader take heed...
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book, with beautiful illustrations. I teach preschool and use this book whenever I get a chance...it can be used to teach about counting, animals and planting...as well as having a wonderful moral. Every little bit helps!
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Format: Hardcover
I love how the text reads, even more so than the brilliant illustrations. I love to read this text first and then play Heather Forest's musical adaptation of this story (see Heather Forest's Sing Me a Story).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was unaware this was a classic tale retold by many and thought this copy was so cute I searched out other versions. All others paled in comparison to the both the easy repetative text and quirky illustrations, others were not nearly as well done IMO. DD asked for this one to be re-read so many times it became a companion to our home library.

The story is of an old husband and wife who plant a garden and tend it through the seasons. At harvest time one turnip has grown soooo large they can't pull it out of the ground. They utilize the help of all the farm animals one by one to heave and tug but still it won't come up. The wife thinks of a creative solution that does the trick and everyone enjoys the "fruit" of their labors in the end :).
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Format: Paperback
My boyfriend and I had been talking about our best childhood memories . I told him for me it had to be reading The Gigantic Turnip and performing as the very hungry little mouse in my first play. This Christmas when he surpised me with it. I was delighted.

I have read many versions of this book over the years. I have to say the Quirky illistrations of Niamh Sharkey are the illistrations that I have seen children take to the most, they are really fun pictures.

Thia book helps teach colors, counting, team work and , not to judge something by how it looks as incapable of helping.

I have given this book as a gift to expectant mothers, a childs gift, as well as to teachers at the beginning of their teaching careers. It was neat to rediscover it. I would most highly reccomend this book to others.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My 3 year old loves this book, we ordered one for a friend as well. She never gets tired of it. This was one of our local library's picks and my daughter loved it so much we bought it for home. Classic story with a cute lesson learned at the end. Beautiful and interesting illustrations.
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By Bev on February 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A truly delightful child's book. I bought this book for my father who is 85 years old and has recently started growing turnips in his garden. He has 2 great granddaughters with whom he can share this book.
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By cay on February 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my almost 3 year old and it was just wonderful. Lovely message, lovely illustrations. We will definitely keep this book for years to come.
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