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Picking Turnips






An ambitious but not entirely successful reboot of a familiar favorite.

—Kirkus Reviews


The delicate, expressive and amusing watercolour artwork shows what’s going on above and below the ground at the same time. Picking Turnips is a refreshing twist on a traditional tale that is sure to capture children’s imagination. 

—Outside In World




A little mouse’s “uncle’s uncle’s uncle” is the source of a lightly fractured version of Tolstoy’s “The Gigantic Turnip.”

As the familiar story unfolds, an alternative is presented by some mice tunneling beneath the large turnip that the usual characters—a white-haired grandfather and grandmother, a grandson (in the original, a granddaughter), a puppy, a kitten, and one lone mouse—are trying to pull out of the ground. The soft watercolor paintings have been “adjusted” by Adobe Photoshop. The full-color paintings on white paper with a ripped bottom edge telling the traditional story have been “taped” at the top of rough brown paper with irregular side edges, within which the mouse story plays out. The human characters are light-skinned, and Grandson has black hair. Beneath, the mice and two moles in the tunnel are mostly painted in shades of brown, except for the gray mouse (the “uncle’s uncle’s uncle”) who leaves his friends to help the humans up top. The text is very simple, but the English punch line (“Let’s juice this baby!”) feels jarringly contemporary. A Simplified Chinese edition of the story publishes simultaneously, with simplified characters and transliterated text directly above the characters as well as a closing glossary. Thumbnails of the spreads and the English text are reproduced in the backmatter in a design that does not do justice to the parallel stories.

An ambitious but not entirely successful reboot of a familiar favorite. (Picture book. 3-6)

—Kirkus Reviews


Mouse is rather bookish; he lives amongst a pile of books enabling him to read lots of wonderful picture books. Take the ‘Gigantic Turnip’ for instance – he’s read many different versions and he thinks they’ve all got the story wrong. According to his uncle’s uncle’s uncle, the story was very different. 

Chinese author and illustrator Xu Zhou has created a lovely humorous take on the familiar Russian fairy tale ‘The Giant Turnip’ by Tolstoy, translated by Adam Lanphier. As the familiar story unfolds: a grandfather plants a turnip that grows so large he can’t pull it out so he enlists the help of his entire family and one by one, they all join the line to help pull out the turnip to no avail. Here an alternative version is presented. Underground, there is a family of mice pulling the turnip from the other direction. In the end, the mice win the tug of war and are rewarded with the prize turnip. 

The delicate, expressive and amusing watercolour artwork shows what’s going on above and below the ground at the same time. Picking Turnips is a refreshing twist on a traditional tale that is sure to capture children’s imagination. 

—Outside In World