Archive for October 13, 2017

Giant Pumpkin Suite

Written by Melanie Heuiser Hill

With an amazing amount of skill, especially for a premier novel, the author weaves together many seemingly unrelated themes. She also weaves together an incredibly diverse neighborhood.

Twelve-year-old Rose is a cello prodigy preparing for a fellowship competition. She lives and breathes the precision of Bach. Her twin, Thomas, is her opposite in many ways. When their elderly neighbor, Otis Pickering, hurts himself attempting to care for a rare pumpkin seed, Rose and Thomas are drawn into helping grow the most amazing pumpkin. Through the growing, Rose resists getting dirty and just wants to play her cello. An accident makes that dream all but impossible. Rose destroys her hand and must go through excruciating rehab. Meanwhile, the pumpkin, Ole Bessie, grows to award-winning proportions. Meanwhile, Rose and her neighbor, Jane, have an adversarial relationship over a particular library copy of Charlotte’s Web.

In overcoming adversity, Rose learns to find joy in other things and to forgive herself for not being perfect. Thomas, although he’s not the main character, learns to be a little more thoughtful and to express his love and concern for his sister. The reader also learns about deception and about how much help neighbors and friends can be.

None of the characters in this story is one-sided. Jane seems thoughtless and frivolous, but she proves to be a good friend. The maestro seems heartless, but he really has problems of his own and is trying to be open. The mailman is a musician who also suffered an injury. Their quiet Japanese neighbor is a war bride who is mostly lonely.

  • Giant Pumpkin SuiteTitle: Giant Pumpkin Suite
  • Author: Melanie Heuiser Hill
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
  • Grade Level: 4 to 7
  • Genre: Fiction, Family, Music, Horticulture
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9155-4

Secrets of the Sea

Written by Kate Baker
Illustrated by Eleanor Taylor

Incredible look at many of the unusual creatures that inhabit the sea, presented in large format.

Organized into areas of the ocean, – from the shallows to the forests to the depths – creatures as far-reaching as plankton and blue-green algae to giant clams and the giant Pacific octopus are highlighted. Each creature explored is given a two-page spread in which a breathtaking illustration either presents the creature as a whole or a close-up of some aspect. This is followed by an overview of the creature and a few facts, accompanied by smaller illustrations related to the creature. Did you know the sea sparkle help fishermen see fish at night? Or that purple sea urchin are kept in check by the sea otters, fish, crab, and seabirds that feed on them?

Great as a starting point for budding oceanographers. So much of the ocean is still unexplored. It is still revealing amazing facts to those who want to learn. This books certainly leaves me wanting to know more.

  • Secrets of the SeaTitle: Secrets of the Sea
  • Author: Kate Baker
  • Illustrated: Eleanor Taylor
  • Published: Big Picture Press/Candlewick Press, October 3, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Nature, Oceans
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9839-3
  • Extras: Selected Bibliography and Online Resources