PPBF: Sophie’s Squash

Sophie’s Squash

Written by by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

Schwartz & Wade Books, $16.99, Ages 3-7

Image courtesy of Amazon
Image courtesy of Random House Kids



Big, bright orange pumpkins are definitely the vegetable celebrities on Halloween. I’d like to nominate the humble butternut to take center stage during Thanksgiving, a time for celebrating the harvest with family and friends. And there’s no better book to promote butternut devotion than the sweet, seasonal friendship story of Sophie’s Squash.

“Bernice was just the right size to love,” reads the blurb on the back cover. Chosen at the farmer’s market and destined for the dinner table, Sophie decides that her squash is perfect to hold, cuddle and rock to sleep.  She adds a simple smiling face and wraps it in a blanket.  “I call her Bernice,” Sophie announces proudly as her mother leafs through a recipe book, preparing for dinner.  “I’ll call for a pizza,” her mother wisely replies.

Girl and gourd become inseparable, somersaulting and playing as best friends do. “Well, we did hope she’d love vegetables,” Sophie’s parents say. But time is not on Bernice’s side.  She becomes splotchy, spotty and even soft as winter approaches.  Loyal Sophie will not give up on her friend, no matter how she changes.  How will Sophie reconcile her deep butternut bond with Bernice’s inevitable decline? Even though there is a small sad moment, all ends well in springtime.

The author’s young daughter, clutching a squash at the grocery store and claiming it for her own, inspired the original story. It is expanded nicely in the book to touch on nurturing, companionship and the science of seed, soil and sun.  But readers will undoubtedly understand and identify with Sophie’s steadfast devotion to her special friend whom she loves, protects and defends no matter the cost.

The hilarious, quirky illustrations pair well with Miller’s smooth, comic text. Wilsdorf adds wry humor through the antics of an inquisitive calico cat, wild patterned outfits, and Sophie’s beribboned spiky pigtails.  There are just enough carefully placed details in each image to convey the unique comforts of home and the slow changes of season.

Parents will recognize and appreciate the humorous challenges that occur when a child latches onto an unusual favorite object like a certain sock or special spoon. And the enduring message here, that everything – even something as simple as a squash – is worthy of love, is certainly one to savor during this season of sharing.


Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Portions of this review first appeared in North Shore Children & Families, November 2014. Read your issue online here.


About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at cmealey@post.harvard.edu or Twitter @catballoumealey
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41 Responses to PPBF: Sophie’s Squash

  1. This is such a fabulous little book! It should be on everyone’s shelf! A fun read aloud!

  2. izatrapani1 says:

    Lovely review, Cathy! And good choice 🙂

  3. tinamcho says:

    I love this book! I was able to read the e-book version from my mom’s online public library. How neat Pat has a You Tube of herself reading it. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Joanna says:

    Great review, and this book deserves a lot of love, all year round!

  5. My daughter did the same with a goose-neck squash! It had to stay out on the porch though, and luckily the squirrels never cracked it open – it’s still hanging to dry in the garage. Maybe I can give it to her kid one day! Great book!

  6. rnewman504 says:

    I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this book. I have to pick it up. Great review, as always, Cathy!

  7. I love the butternut bond. What a charming story based on a true story. Beautiful illustrations. Kids are full of surprises. But, that squash would end up in my oven. Enjoyed your review as we approach the holidays and bring closure to Fall.

    • Did you get snow in this latest weather event Pat? This morning looked much more like winter than fall! Time to curl up with a great book, or two, or three. 🙂

      • No snow yet. A few flurries yesterday. May get a little Sunday. Walked until Wednesday. Now too cold. Yes, it is book weather and I have a a stack of MG books to curl up with and review.

        Remember your visiting the Plimoth Plantation last year. Thought of you as I wacthed the weekly PBS show “Finding Your Roots,” with Dr. Henry Lewis Gates, Last week Sally Fields discovered that her first immigrating relatives sailed on the Mayflower, were Pilgrims and her 8x(?) great grandfather was mayor (forgot his name) of the community for 36 years. They shared with her documents of a get together with the Native Americans that later became the first Thanksgiving. Love that show!

  8. I LOVE this book. Thanks for the reminder. I’m going to get it out and re-read it right now.

  9. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    I do love this book. I like the fall friend activity, but we may need to make it into a snowman fall friend. 🙂

    • Our snow just melted – hurray! And don’t tell Bernice, but our mushy Jack O’Lanterns are feeding lots of birds and squirrels. Funny to watch the titmice fly into the moldy, gaping “mouth” for seeds and bugs.

  10. Wendy says:

    I had butternut squash soup for lunch (don’t tell Bernice!). This is a sweet book.

  11. Catherine Johnson says:

    I read this ages ago and remember enjoying it. I need to read it again. Cute!

  12. What a great review! I will definitely be checking it out pronto. My son had a spaghetti squash pal a year or two ago that was a lot of fun. I drew a face on it and called him “Mr. Squashie.”

  13. A very cute, adorable book and I loved watching Pat read it. You guys are now into Winter I guess, while I am enjoying the spring weather and looking forward to the summer joy!

  14. “Butternut bond” made me snort.

    This seems like a wonderful book. I’m gonna give it a look-see.

  15. Sue Wang says:

    Sometimes we take to an object like they are family. Affirmation for what we love, sprinkled with humor. YES for children and adults!

  16. My daughter’s school librarian read this, and then they colored their own squashes (on paper) to bring home and love. I also noticed signs posted around school – not sure if they made these up or if it was a printable from the publisher, but the signs say “Love who you want – love a squash!”

  17. I LOVE this book and enjoyed your review. Don’t you love how they have pet names for Sophie that are all about vegetables?

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