Sunday, November 7, 2010

Me and the Pumpkin Queen

by Marlane Kennedy
(2007)
181 pages

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. 

The opening:
I don't think I'm abnormally obsessive.  I mean, Daddy hasn't taken me to the doctor or anything to find out for sure, so I prefer to describe myself as focused.  A lot of kids my age are focused.  Like Arnie Bradford.  He is focused on basketball. Every time we drive past his house on our way to town, he is his driveway shooting baskets. Even in the middle of winter.  Then there is Gloria Mathis.  She is all the time blathering about this teenage actor she is in love with.  She cuts his picture out of magazines and plasters them all over her school notebooks.  But truth be told they are focused on the usual kinds of things that kids all over the place are focused on.  Like there are probably hundreds of thousands of fifth graders into basketball and popular actors.  It just so happens that my thoughts are consumed with something out of the ordinary.  Daddy isn't worried about me at all.  Aunt Arlene sure is.    (1-2)
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.
My Rating:


(how do we like the rating system my techy son created for me?)

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