children's books
The Magic Pumpkin
by Hilary Williamson

It was a sunny Fall day, crisp and blue and gold. Kevin and his friend Katie climbed onto the school bus, heading for the Pumpkin Patch. They sat on the back bench and had fun bouncing around. But Katie was grumpy. She didn't want to go on the trip. She hated cold Fall weather and pumpkins and everything.

The bus parked at the farm.  There was an enormous pile of orange pumpkins beside a wagon and tractor. Everyone rushed for the wagon. Kevin and Katie sat in the front as it headed out. They watched the huge wheels of the tractor bump slowly over ruts in the dirt path. More bouncing! Then the tractor stopped.

On either side long rows of pumpkins lay in the dust, each in its own tangle of vines. They were all different sizes and shades of orange, with light brown patches.  The driver said the ones with stalks lasted longer. Kevin and Katie ran down the same dusty row. Kevin worried when bigger kids ran past and grabbed the best pumpkins.  Soon Katie said she didn't care anyway and picked up the next one on the ground.  Kevin kept looking.

Time was up and Kevin was still empty handed. He ran faster.  Then he saw one the others had missed. It was small and a clear orange in color, with a little brown mark shaped like a star. It was perfect. Kevin pulled it off its vines, held the prickly stem carefully and ran back to the bus. Katie said it was ugly and they quarreled.

That night Kevin's father cut open the pumpkin, scooped out its insides and carved it. The pumpkin grinned at them - a lopsided, mischievous kind of a grin. Kevin cut a star shaped nose with his dad's help, and saved the piece. He put the pumpkin on his bedside table and tucked the little star under his pillow.

He fell asleep and dreamed that he was back in the Pumpkin Patch. His pumpkin had long vine legs and arms, and called itself Jack-O. Jack-O told Kevin that he could have one wish, anything at all. Kevin badly wanted a new video game. The kids at school were all talking about it.

All the next day, Kevin imagined playing the game. He wanted to tell Katie on the bus home, but she was cross and wouldn't talk. She seemed sad as well as grumpy.  So Kevin asked his mother and father at supper time about Katie's dad in hospital.  Their worried faces answered him.

 

It was hard to get to sleep that night. When he did, with the little star under his pillow, Kevin found himself back in the Pumpkin Patch.  It was a stormy Fall day with leaves flying everywhere, red and orange and brown.  The wind blew so hard that Jack-O bobbed in the air, vines waving and getting in tangles.

It was time for the wish.  Kevin opened his mouth to ask for his game.  But as the storm tossed leaves around him, he saw his friend's face and the words spilled out 'Make Katie's dad better'.   Jack-O's orange face split in an enormous grin.  He danced in the air while he told Kevin how to pass on the magic.  Then he disappeared in a burst of orange fireworks, full of little sparkling stars. 

Katie wasn't at school the next morning.  Was Jack-O only a dream?  But she arrived late, smiling and all was well - her father was coming home on the week-end.  After school, Katie and Kevin played in the park.  The pumpkin star was grubby and shrivelled in Kevin's pocket and the wind swished leaves gently along the ground.  Kevin and Katie tossed them at each other, kicked them into piles and jumped in. 

Then Kevin took out the little star and threw it high in the air. A gust of wind picked it up. Away it spiralled, higher and higher in the sky. He watched until it was only a little orange point and then even that disappeared.  Katie asked what he was doing.  Oh nothing, just pumpkin magic, replied Kevin with a secret smile.

The End
Author's Note:

I've always been a bit puzzled about the popularity of The Magic Pumpkin - which had over 25,000 visitors this Fall alone -  since it's a simple seasonal story. But I've concluded that there's still an interest in old-fashioned values and in reading about a child who is tempted, makes the right choice to help his friend ... yet does it privately, without fanfare, and for his own satisfaction.

The Magic Pumpkin is now available as a picture book illustrated by Lynne Adams (in softcover or e-book format). If you like the story, check out a preview of the picture book at Lulu.com, where you can also order your own copy.