Written by by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
Schwartz & Wade Books, $16.99, Ages 3-7
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.
- Print the Make your Own Fall Friend Activity Page: http://www.randomhousekids.com/media/activities/SAW_SophiesSquash_ActSheet.pdf
- Watch Pat read her book on YouTube for Read On Wisconsin
- Or grab a gourd, select a squash, or pick a pepo! Add a face and make a friend.
Portions of this review first appeared in North Shore Children & Families, November 2014. Read your issue online here.