Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Me and the Pumpkin Queen

Me and the Pumpkin Queen

Marlane Kennedy
For ages 8 to 12
HarperCollins, 2007   ISBN: 978-0061140228

Every year, in the third week in October, Pickaway County has its Circleville Pumpkin Show. The high point of the show is the pumpkin contest, and for several years Mildred has tried to win this contest. She has tried to grow the biggest and best giant pumpkin, but the fates have always been against her. Winning this contest has now become something of an obsession with her, a point of honor perhaps. Her mother, who died when Mildred was six years old, loved the Pumpkin Show and perhaps Mildred is trying to win the contest for her. Who can say. What is clear, is that Mildred is doing her very best to grow the biggest and most perfect pumpkin this year.

Of course this is not an easy task. As another expert in the field once told her, "it's almost like taking care of a new born baby." He wasn't wrong either. Producing the perfect pumpkin is a mammoth task, but luckily Mildred has the support of her father and her best friend Jacob. However her Aunt Arlene thinks that Mildred's obsession is unhealthy and she is always trying to get Mildred to behave like a "normal" eleven-year old girl. Why can't Mildred be interested in clothes and boys instead of pumpkins Aunt Arlene wonders.

Well, nothing Aunt Arlene does makes Mildred stray from her dedicated path. There are calamities that befall her pumpkins, but in the end she does indeed have a very large pumpkin to enter in the contest. Is it going to be large enough though?

In this thoroughly charming book, with its endearing characters and its simple yet thoughtful storyline, Marlane Kennedy not only tells the story of a girl who simply will not give up, but she also looks at the ways in which this particular child deals with the loss of her mother. Grief takes many forms, and for Mildred, producing the best winning pumpkin is her way of giving her mother a gift from the heart. It is her way of letting go and moving on. One of the most interesting aspects of this story is to see how Mildred and her Aunt Arlene relate to one another. Though they often do not get along, there are those special times when they do understand one another, when they do connect, and those moments are very sweet indeed.