Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pumpkin Potential

It's that time of year when the stalls and tables at farmers' markets, are replete with the color orange.  Small, tall, round, squat and large, pumpkins form into an assortment of shapes and sizes.  People scan the rows looking for one, two, three or more pumpkins which will be used as an ingredient in a favorite recipe, an autumn display or as a spooky greeter for trick-or-treaters.

Some pumpkins are not for sale.  These pumpkins have been grown as part of a competition that circles the globe, the quest for the largest pumpkin.  Last year the biggest ever recorded was grown in Rhode Island.  It weighed 2009 pounds!  Author illustrator Wendell Minor's newest release, How BIG Could Your Pumpkin Grow? ( Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.) plants the "what if" seed taking readers on a marvelous journey.

At the pumpkin farm,
we pick the perfect pumpkin.
Some are little,
some are big,
and some are GIANT-sized.

From the farm to the festival, the pumpkins are getting bigger and bigger.  Skimming over the water as boats, people paddling toward a goal.  Knee-high to the legend and his ox of blue, pumpkins are growing.

If we had seeds, not ordinary seeds, but magic seeds, imagine the greatness these gourds could achieve.  We might see one among all the hot-air giants floating in the sky at the Balloon Festival in New Mexico.  We might see another standing watch along the sandy coast of North Carolina, light shining through a jack-o-lantern grin, matching the height of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

From a bridge connecting one borough to another, to a historic oil field and on to the tallest roller coaster in the world, these pumpkins are traversing the country; their size ever increasing.  Washington, D.C., South Dakota and California are only three of fourteen stops on the tour.  Whether it's natural wonders carved by the hands of time or structures designed by the minds and hands of men and women, nothing is too great for the pumpkins coming from seeds charmed by one's imagination.

You can only wonder at the fun Wendell Minor had researching and writing the narrative for this book.  For each of the places showcased, a different synonym of big is used in the sentences.  Light, informal and with a slight cadence each sentence, each paragraph, makes us feel as if we have traveled to the same time and place as the pumpkins.   Readers are treated to the descriptive power of word play and the creative use of language.  Here is a single sample.

Would it rise as
as hot-air balloons
at the 
fall fiesta fair?

You can feel the exuberance of the two children atop the enormous pumpkin on the front of the matching jacket and cover.  The warm autumnal colors found there glow throughout the title.   All the two-page illustrations rendered in gouache and watercolor issue a friendly invitation to readers.  Come.  Let's see how big these pumpkins can grow.  Let's see where they will appear next.

Wendell Minor is a master illustrator, bringing each of the visited vistas, from their respective places on the map into the reader's world.  His lively paintings picture exquisite details, the label on the scarecrow's bib overalls, the rower wearing a pumpkin hat, the vine on a pumpkin top, a tiny U. S. flag on the bridge, eyes on monuments moved to look at a pumpkin or a small plane pulling a Pumpkin for President banner. For each of the "big" words he changes font type as a reflection of the area in which the pumpkin sits. The smiles and gasps of awe are an ode to happiness, to the greatness not only of the pumpkins' sizes but to the points of interest in our United States.  One of my favorite illustrations is of the Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico.  The vivid colors, the perspective focusing on the balloons, the wide-eyed pumpkin with all the much smaller people and tents below, make me feel as if I am there.

Wendell Minor informs, delights, questions and entertains us with his words and illustrations in How BIG Could Your Pumpkin Grow?  You will be hard pressed to find a better title that encourages readers to envision places of interest they might visit, to explore word choice and to develop their powers of creativity all while appreciating pumpkins.  Additional information about each of the national places of interest is included at the book's end.  To view additional artwork found in this title visit Wendell Minor's website by following the link embedded in his name above.  I would pair this book with The Pumpkin Circle: A Story of a Garden by George Levenson with photographs by Shmuel Thaler.

Enjoy the book trailer plus another video about large, very large pumpkins.


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