________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 3. . . .September 18, 2009


Pumpkin Baby.

Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Susan Mitchell. Toronto, ON: Key Porter, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-55470-141-4.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 2-7.

Review by Myra Junyk.

**** /4



I thought about a pumpkin baby,
Would it be orange on the outside?
Would it be too heavy to pick up,
Too round to run and play with me?
Would I
could I,
ever love a pumpkin child?

The precocious six-year old narrator of the story is going to have a new baby in her family! When she was three-years-old, her Aunt May talked about a “pumpkin baby” while they were picking pumpkins on her farm. When she was four-years-old, Mr. Jess talked about a “cabbage baby” while they were picking cabbages. And when she was five-years-old, a big stork flew overhead, and Mr. Thompson, the mailman, talked about a stork baby. Now that she is six-years-old, she “knows much much better” and finds that her baby brother is a bit of all three – pumpkin, cabbage and stork – but she loves him “from the very moment he was born.”

internal art      Both Jane Yolen, the author of this picture book, and Susan Mitchell, the illustrator, want to engage very young readers in thinking about family relationships. By exploring the stereotypes about where babies come from – pumpkin patches, cabbage patches and storks – Yolen deals with the fears of an older sister. What will the strange newcomer to her family look like? Will it be orange on the outside, too heavy to pick up and too round to play with her – like a pumpkin? Will it be green and stand in long rows – like a cabbage? Or will it fly like a stork? The possibilities are endless – but the reality of the new baby is a beautiful and loving surprise.

     The wonderful illustrations show our heroine coming to terms with the newcomer in her family. As a three-year-old, she watches her mother picking the beautifully luminous orange pumpkins. She is lying in the field with her bunny who is her constant companion and appears throughout the story. When she is older and more inquisitive, she plays with a caterpillar and watches a stork overhead. Her bunny is still her constant companion, but now she also has a baby brother to hold and to love!

     The illustrator has chosen to unify the colour scheme of the book by having green on each and every page. The landscapes of the farm, the park and the beach are full of interesting plants, animals and insects. Nature is very much alive in this picture book! Some young readers who have never been to a farm will be interested to learn how pumpkins and cabbages grow. The home of the narrator is portrayed in vivid colours with lots of books, toys and even a little pet puppy! When she imagines the new baby, she sees him as wildly coloured stork flying around in his room. However, the most beautiful and poignant pictures are reserved for the arrival of the baby when the family is together – greeting the baby, walking in the park and sharing moments at the beach and at a picnic. The love and joy of having a little brother are perhaps best expressed by the lovely illustration at the end of the book where the two siblings embrace on a baby blanket!

     The text of this picture book is very well suited for young readers. The vocabulary is simple and easy to understand. The repetition of sentence constructions will help young readers to follow the story more easily. This picture book also has great potential as a read-aloud. The beautifully written descriptions will intrigue young readers. In a classroom setting, Pumpkin Baby could also be a great tool for shared reading. The use of quotations provides a great teaching moment for features of text. Children could also discuss what they have learned about family life from the young heroine’s experiences with the “Pumpkin Baby?”

Highly Recommended.

Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate and author.

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

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