________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 8 . . . . December 5, 2008

cover Pumpkin People.

Sandra & Ron Lightburn.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2008.
32 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-55109-681-0.

Subject Headings:
Pumpkin-Juvenile fiction.
Harvest festivals-Nova Scotia-Kentville-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** /4


When summer’s gone a change is seen
The leaves have all turned half past green.

The air is cool, the nights grow long.
The wind will sing a mournful song.

An autumn moon hangs low and near
And pumpkin people time is here

Every October, the folks in Kentville, NS, celebrate the harvest season by welcoming a new family of “Pumpkin People” to their town. These unusual townsfolk, with their orange heads and cornstalk bones, can be seen, as the Lightburns put it, “cavorting throughout the town” during Harvest Festival time. The yearly sight of these Pumpkin People was the Lightburns’ inspiration for the whimsical little picture book, Pumpkin People.

     Sandra and Ron’s first project was the picture book Driftwood Cove which won the Sheila A. Egoff Literature Prize for text and illustration. Ron Lightburn will be remembered for his Governor General’s award-winning artwork in Waiting for the Whales in 1991.

     The Lightburns, new residents to the small Nova Scotia community in 1997, decided that, by creating a bit of local folklore, they could give back something to their adopted community. Pumpkin People resulted from Sandra and Ron’s imagining what these peculiar people do at night when the townspeople are sleeping.

internal art

     Each double spread illustration in the 32 page book is divided into a full colour painting on one side and a shadowy sepia-toned illustration on the opposing page. The artist achieves a wonderfully spooky effect by depicting his weird and wacky pumpkin characters in somber turquoise-grey tones backlit by bright bonfires. Particularly appealing are Pumpkin People’s endpapers which Lightburn has done in silhouette. An insert with the book informs the reader that the artist’s original artwork will be on display at the museum in Kentville until Dec. 17.

     Sandra Lightburn has written her accompanying text in four beat couplets, a pattern that grows a mite wearisome after the first dozen or so. Varying the rhyme or rhythm might have made the story a little more fun for adults to read aloud. It is true that little ones love repetition, but sometimes both reader and listener need to be jolted by the unexpected.

     Included in the book are three pages entitled “How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Person.” Clear and simple instructions emphasize that adult help is needed for the operation. The last page of the book contains a little article about the Kentville Harvest Festival and includes a photo of an assortment of “Pumpkin People” leaning against the town signboard.

     Pumpkin People should find a place with the Halloween books in elementary libraries and make its way into the read-aloud collection for primary students. Just how many adult readers will take up the challenge to construct a Pumpkin Person with their small listener(s) is anybody’s guess.


A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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