by Marlane Kennedy
What a perfect chapter book for any season but especially fall and spring when pumpkins would be a focal point. Mildred's dream is to grow the perfect giant pumpkin to win the Pumpkin Show. She's been infatuated with this idea ever since her mama passed and her daddy has regaled her with stories of how much she loved walking past the giant pumpkins at the harvest festival.
What makes this a perfect chapter book for elementary students?
1. Easy characters: 11-year-old Mildred, her father, the veterinarian; her Aunt Arlene, a bit bossy but loves Mildred; her best friend, Jacob;and Grover Fernhart, the gruff neighbor who relctantly tells Mildred how to grow a giant pumpkin. At one point, Mildred is forced to take a trip to visit other relatives and meets her cousin, Amanda. Amanda is described as girly but she turns out to have some surprises up her sleeve, making her a perfect companion for Mildred.
2. Grief plays a small role in this story. Mildred is not torn up with grief, she loves her father and their life. She talks to her mother and wishes she were still around but Mildred is happy. She does show frustration as her attempts to grow a giant pumpkin fail but she continues to try. She doesn't give up.
3. Growing up/maturing is talked about as Aunt Arlene takes Mildred shopping and buys several new bras for her. It is touched on just briefly but not in great detail.
It has an easy-going rhythm and the chapters are short, making it a quick read-aloud. Howard Dill's Giant Pumpkin Seeds are just what Grover recommends to Mildred and they really exist. Students could have a great time researching and growing their own. Mildred, playing on the computer at her father's office, is on bigpumpkins.com-which also really exists although you have to become a member to explore. Find author information here at Marlane's website.
Book Trailers for Readers has a cute video about this book.
(how do we like the rating system my techy son created for me?)