Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Me and the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy, Greenwillow, 2007
Mildred's mother died when she was very young. Her loving father is a veterinarian. Her Aunt Arlene is too involved in her life because she wants Mildred to focus on 'ordinary' interests of typical eleven year olds, like clothes and shopping. But, Mildred is really only interested in one thing: growing pumpkin giants. Pumpkins are her passion and a way to remember her mother who loved the annual pumpkin festival.
Her early attempts at pumpkin growing do not yield the giants she hopes for but as her knowledge grows so does the size of her pumpkins. From the special seed to the pruning to the feeding, watering and nurturing, Mildred shares the process with the reader. We cheer Mildred's success and are in awe of her dedication.
This storyline echoes Joan Bauer's Squashed in many ways. In Bauer's book, Ellie is also coping with the loss of her mother. She lavishes care on her pumpkin to help it gain weight, while she herself, is trying to drop twenty pounds. Ellie is in high school and feels awkward and out of step with the other kids until she meets a guy who is as interested in vegetables as she is.
In both stories the weigh-in at the end of the story is very dramatic and tension filled. The reader is as invested as Mildred and Ellie in the outcome.
Kennedy's book is a sweet, sweet story of dedication and love for elementary age children and older. Her book is filled with almost step by step directions on growing pumpkins that had me, in a moment of utter madness, eyeing my own backyard and wondering if there was room for a pumpkin patch.
Bauer's book resonates with middle school and high school readers as eloquently testified to by the worn edges and creased cover of my own daughter's copy.