Wesley was just a young farming boy in rural Texas, during the Great Depression, when an event happened that would change his life and bring excitement to his ordered existence. In The Year They Stole Mama’s Turkeys by Gerry Lites Watkins, we find the farming community of Cedar Creek, changed by the arrival of the Morans, an Oklahoma family who like so many other “Okies” had lost their farm when the rains never came and the Oklahoma fields turned into the notorious dustbowl. When the Moran’s car breaks down just outside Wesley’s family farm, a new chapter begins in his life. Watkins takes us back to those desperate days of the Depression, when half the country, it seemed, was looking for work and gives us tales of simple happenings in this rural backwater that allowed the inhabitants to keep their spirits up and to keep their humanity when everything in the Country seemed to be going from bad to worse.
The Year They Stole Mama’s Turkeys is a delightful, children’s book, simply full of sweet and lovely anecdotes that help to explain what is right and wrong, plus gives today’s young people a taste of what was a simpler, a quieter, but nonetheless, in many ways a happy life, despite the turmoil that raged around the family. Gerry Lites Watkins has written characters that are typical of children everywhere and simple to identify with. There’s the archetypal bully, who the author beautifully shows how to put in his place with some sage advice from Wesley’s father. All through this book you feel the love, the warmth and the sanctity of family and what it means to “stick together”, through thick and thin. This book shows us the best side of human nature and the innate kindness that is in everyone, if only we can find it. As an adventure, there is plenty to keep the young reader’s mind excited and occupied. I would really recommend this book as an excellent read for children, especially for those who have never ventured outside of their city neighbourhoods. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, although it is many years since I felt the thrill of childhood excitement.