One of Ethan's earliest memories is a long-ago Thanksgiving when he was very small --- too small to go out to play in his extended family's traditional Turkey Bowl football game. That year, it was so cold outside that everyone called the game the "Ice Bowl." They wore layer upon layer of clothes, and their hair was white with frost. Ethan, along with his best friend Alex and the rest of the small neighbor kids, cheered the game on even as they shivered in the frigid air.
One year, Ethan remembers, it rained so hard on Thanksgiving that the football field turned into muck. That year, the family nicknamed the Turkey Bowl the "Mud Bowl," but they had a fabulous time anyway. One aunt slid through the mire to make a touchdown, and a cousin splashed 20 yards for another one. Again, Ethan had been one of a cheering crowd of wet but happy too-small-to-play football fans.
The "Fog Bowl" happened last year. Ethan was still just a tiny bit too small to play that gray day. Players found fog football confusing; they couldn't figure out which way to run because they couldn't see in the mist. Ethan, Alex and the neighbor kids could only hear some of the plays, but they cheered like crazy.
At long last, finally, when Thanksgiving Day rolls around, Ethan is actually old enough to play in the Turkey Bowl --- and his anticipation is beyond words. So that morning, as the holiday food fragrances waft through his house, Ethan scrambles into his football jersey and pants, his heart thumping fast with excitement.
When he bursts into the kitchen, shouting with glee, he sees all the usual Thanksgiving kitchen sights: turkey and ham ready for the oven, squash soup simmering, heaps of stuffing, and an assembly line working on a variety of pies. However, what he doesn't see is what he is the most anxious to find: his Turkey Bowl teammates. Only Mom, Dad and Grandpa are in the kitchen. When he asks where all the relatives are, he finds out that the roads are not passable because of a blizzard, so they are unable to come. Ethan can't believe it. The year he and his friends are old enough to play in the Turkey Bowl, there isn't going to be one.
He and Alex spread the word throughout the neighborhood. The downcast youngsters all gather at the school to stare at the snowy football field. But then Ethan gets an idea that just may save the Turkey Bowl...
This is a delightfully different Thanksgiving story, refreshingly light on holiday sentimentality. Kids are sure to relate to Ethan's disappointment and then cheer at his solution (and are unlikely to notice that the resolution comes maybe just a shade too easily). Small football fans will be especially enthralled. The illustrations are particularly pleasing; each picture tells a story, capturing emotions and details in a way that may remind parents of Norman Rockwell's paintings.
--- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon