The Very Best Pumpkin, written by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by Karen Hillard Good

The Very Best Pumpkin, written by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by Karen Hillard Good (2010, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ISBN 978-1-4169-8288-3)

Peter lives at Pumpkin Hollow Farm with his grandparents, and one day he follows a long vine away from the patch and discovers a lonely little pumpkin growing at the end. He takes special care of this little pumpkin while his unnoticed new neighbor, Meg, watches from a distance. In the fall, when all the pumpkins are ready, Peter helps visitors to the farm select just the right pumpkin. Meg comes with her family but has trouble finding just the right pumpkin. In the end, Peter leads Meg to the very best pumpkin out at the end of the very long vine. Meg admits that she has been secretly watching Peter tending this pumpkin all summer, and Peter tells her that he knew it all along and that was why he wanted her to have it. The two become friends (of course) and tend pumpkins together the next year.

This was a very cute, simple story about two apparently shy children becoming friends over a (covertly) shared experience. As the last line of the story says, “And just like the pumpkin, their friendship grew and grew and grew.” For anyone looking for a lesson out of the book, nurturing friendships is one almost as apparent as pumpkin care. (The last page of the book actually has “Peter’s Guide to Growing Your Own Very Best Pumpkin” for anyone wanting a basic tutorial on pumpkin husbandry.) I also loved the vocabulary: curlicue, clambered, rambling…fun, fun words!

My favorite part of this book, however, is the art. It has muted, earthy colors that have a vintage feel despite the simple lines, kind of like the weathered style of scrapbooking and cardmaking, kind of like an old quilt. I peeked at the publication page and was delighted to find that the illustrations were “rendered in watercolors, instant coffee, and bleach”–a definite first in my experience! They are the kind of pictures, sort of like the illustrations in Mathilde and the Orange Balloon, that you could use to decorate a little girl’s room without being overly cutesy or babyish. They feel more hand-crafted than just painted on a two-dimensional surface. Very charming art! (Click on the illustrator’s name above and you can go to her website to see more of her work!)

GirlChild’s Reactions: GirlChild quietly enjoyed this book, and she says she likes the mice and the pictures of Meg the best. (I was kind of surprised she didn’t mention the ladybugs and rosettes that pop up in many of the pictures, but I guess she was concentrating more on the story than on the smaller elements in the pictures.) Afterward, she said she wanted to plant pumpkins, and she paraphrased the page that says, “Big pumpkins, small pumpkins, short pumpkins, tall pumpkins,” adding, “I want to grow all kinds of pumpkins!” Apparently, she also wants to grow them in the front yard…sorry, kiddo. 🙂

Additional titles:
(by the author and illustrator (with different last name))

(by the author and illustrator)

(by the author and illustrator)


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