Jan Thomas takes true toddler scenarios and finds the humor and fun in them, as she does in A Birthday for Cow!
Pig and Mouse do a perfectly normal good deed: They make a cake for Cow--"the best birthday cake EVER," in fact. Duck keeps trying to tell them something in his gently (and later, not so gently) insistent way. As Pig and Mouse combine the flour, sugar and eggs, Duck says, "And a TURNIP?" They mix it all together with... "A TURNIP!" Duck repeats. It may seem as though Duck is just being silly, but what toddlers learn at the end is this: Cow loves turnips.
Jan Thomas hints at the outcome with Duck's close attention to the calendar as Cow's birthday draws near. The blue X's indicate Duck's count down to a special day--not Duck's birthday, but Cow's birthday. Duck keeps trying to tell his friends what the perfect present would be for Cow, but they are intent on making a cake -- perfectly reasonable (Pig and Mouse certainly enjoy it), but not what Cow would wish to eat.
It's a subtle lesson delivered with heaping helpings of humor, that sometimes what we would want for ourselves is not what someone else would want. Duck thought about what Cow really loves, and that was the gift Duck gave to Cow. Or, maybe it's because Duck loves turnips, too...