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Me and the Pumpkin Queen    by Marlane Kennedy order for
Me and the Pumpkin Queen
by Marlane Kennedy
Order:  USA  Can
Greenwillow, 2007 (2007)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Eleven-year old Mildred has a big goal - to grow giant pumpkins and enter the annual Circleville Ohio Pumpkin Festival. Mildred was six years old when Mama died, and her mother was once crowned The Pumpkin Queen. Before Mildred can realize her goal, she learns there are many considerations that go into growing pumpkins, including allotting time for school assignments, helping Dad in his busy veterinary practice, playing chess with best friend Jacob, and shopping for clothes at the mall with Aunt Arlene. (Actually Mildred would prefer to shop with Dad at the discount store for jeans and comfy clothes.)

Mildred first attempts to grow a few jack-o-lantern seeds in pots on her bedroom window sill. That night she dreams that the potted pumpkins grow bigger than the farmhouse and she sees Mama wearing her Pumpkin Queen crown. Unfortunately, the first efforts end up with six rotted pumpkins. However, this spunky trouper doesn't give up and learns there's more to the art of pumpkin growing then watching them every day. In fact, Mildred's Guide to Growing a Giant Pumpkin includes beginning with the right seeds and preparing the soil with compost and molasses. She consults Don Langevin's How-to-Grow World Class Giant Pumpkins (which the author also used to write this book.) Mildred selects Howard Dill's Atlantic Giant seeds, the seeds' lineage being important for prize pumpkins. The trials that go into successfully growing pumpkins (especially when competing with growers who enter pumpkins that weigh in at 1,000 lbs. or more) include dealing with trampled pumpkin seedlings, proper placement in potting soil, and unpredictable weather conditions.

Mildred narrates her pumpkin-growing pursuits in evenly-paced, short-chapters, referring to herself as focused and abnormally obsessive. When faced with a choice of visiting family members not seen in some years, or staying behind to tend her pumpkins at a crucial time in their development, Mildred's solution is supported by her Dad and friend Jacob. When the October Wednesday arrives for pumpkin weigh-in, the buzz around town is, 'Will Mildred's entry win the prize?' Marlene Kennedy's debut book is a chummy read, projecting heartwarming tenderness and a youngster's determination. Kennedy spent some of her youth in Pickaway County near Circleville, Ohio, where a passion for everything pumpkin abides.

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