Sunday, October 24, 2010

Best Fall Picture Books: Pumpkins (Fiction)

I can’t imagine buying a pumpkin at a grocery store!  I have always used pumpkin picking as a memory making tradition.  Every year we go to a farm to pick ours.  At some of the farms, we actually pick them off the vines while at others we pick them from a field.  There are usually lots of other activities at the farms, such as corn mazes, tire swings, petting zoos, and so forth.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to live in the vicinity of farms for picking pumpkins.  I encourage you venture out to one at least once to a farm to pick a pumpkin while your children are young or with your class of students.  The book selections today all capture the joys and memories of pumpkin picking, and in some cases, even growing pumpkins. 

Pumpkin Day, Pumpkin Night (ages 3-7) by Anne Rockwell (realistic fiction)
In this fictional narrative, an eager, young boy observes the various changes in nature that indicate it is fall which signifies that soon it will be “pumpkin time.”  Along with his mother, they take their traditional trip to a farm to pick pumpkins for carving and for cooking.  Together, mother and son experience an uplifting memory carving the perfect jack-o-lantern and watching it glow in the night.  The bright backgrounds with appealing paper cut outs give the illustrations a 2-dimensional appearance to this story about fall, family, and tradition. 

The Very Best Pumpkin (ages 4-8) by Mark Kimball Moulton (realistic fiction)
Watercolor illustrations in warm hues offer a country setting for the story of Peter who lives with his grandparents on a farm.  One of their fall crops is pumpkins.  One day Peter discovers a pumpkin vine that has trailed off from the others and is growing alone.  Meanwhile, a new family with a girl his age moves in next door.   She shyly watches him from afar as he tends his special lone pumpkin.  After the community has all come to pick their pumpkins from the farm, the girl and her family arrive to chose theirs.  Peter gives her his special pumpkin.  He knew all along she had been watching him.  This first act of kindness begins a sweet friendship between them. 

Pumpkin Jack (ages 5-9) by Will Hubbell  (realistic fiction)
After Tim’s beloved and enchanting jack-o-lantern begins to expire, he discards it in the backyard garden.  Over time, he watches as the face wrinkles and the pumpkin shrinks into the ground.  In the spring, a tiny sprout peers up from the soil which multiples and grows as Tim cares for the new pumpkin plants.  When the pumpkins are ripe, he generously gives them away to other children.  He saves one though.  It becomes his new Pumpkin Jack.  Anyone who has reluctantly thrown away his jack-o-lantern after the holiday will appreciate this story. 

The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin (ages 4-8) by Joe Troiano (fantasy fiction)

Spookley is a square pumpkin in a patch of round pumpkins.  He is teased and ridiculed for his unique shape.  When there is a storm, several pumpkin break loose from the vine and roll out of the garden through a hole in the fence, resulting in their destruction.  Spookley moves to block the hole, which prevents any other pumpkins from being destroyed.  The farmer discovers what happened, so the following year he only plants Spookley's seeds.  As a result, pumpkins of all shapes and sizes are produced, bringing joy to the boys and girls of the community as they all pick out a unique one just for them.  This book celebrates individual differences.  The poetic language is full of rhyme and alliteration.   The Legend of Spookley is sure to be a favorite holiday read! 
Honorable Mentions
Pumpkin Day (ages 4-8) by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (realistic fiction)
This book is a sweet narrative of a family of bunnies visiting a pumpkin patch, making pumpkin pancakes, and carving jack-o-lanterns.  Riddles and fast facts on pumpkins are interspersed.  It includes the family’s recipes for toasted pumpkin seeds, perfect pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin pancakes. 

Pumpkin Moon (ages 6-10) by Tim Preston (fantasy fiction)
Following the a similar format as David Weisner’s Tuesday, this predominately wordless book tells the magical tale of what happens on October 31 after all the trick-or-treaters are in bed.  I have mixed feelings about this one.  It has some noteworthy illustrations, but there are real witches, skeletons, and other ghouls.  It is an interesting premise.  On the other hand, the “story” did not seem to have a real point.   Check it out to see for yourself.  Then, let me know what you think!

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