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Ready for Pumpkins: Kate Duke

Book: Ready for Pumpkins
Author: Kate Duke
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5 and up 

As October 31st approaches, Kate Duke's Ready for Pumpkins is a fun celebration of that quintessentially Halloween treat, pumpkins. Hercules, or Herky, is a guinea pig who lives in a first grade classroom. A class project undertaken by the students inspires Herky to want a garden of his own. When he is taken to live with the teacher's father on a farm for the summer vacation, Herky puts his dream into action. With the help of a rabbit named Daisy, and some leftover pumpkin seeds from October, Herky creates a pumpkin patch.

Ready for Pumpkins is definitely more a picture book for early elementary school kids than for toddlers. It's somewhat text-dense, and a bit busy (with a mix of narrative text and dialog bullets). But it's also a matter of the theme. The classroom scenes are filled with first-grade projects, like growing plants and carving pumpkins. The garden scenes are fairly detailed, showing exactly what it takes (including patience) to make a garden. But for readers old enough to follow the storyline, Ready for Pumpkins is quite entertaining. Like this:

"But the seeds weren't ready.
Seeds can take a long time.

They don't grow faster if you yell at them.
They don't grow faster if you jump up and down and stamp your feet.

They won't grow at all if you dig them up to see what they are doing.
I tried all these things. Finally Daisy said, "Cool it!" 

The above is accompanied by small illustrations of Herky waving his arms, tapping his feet, and finally having a temper tantrum. I challenge anyone not to smile. Later Herky learns that "A garden is not a place to be angry in."

There are other funny moments, like when Herky is back in his classroom, singing pumpkin songs to himself, while the one of the kids notes: "He's making that noise again!"

Despite Herky's non-traditional actions (for a guinea pig), Duke's illustrations stay on the realistic side (vs. more cartoon-like books). Her affection for guinea pigs, kids, and nature all come through. 

Ready for Pumpkins is in many ways more of a summer book than a fall book, a celebration of gardening and all things green and growing. But it begins and ends in a classroom, and begins and ends with pumpkins, making it a good choice to read now, and then read again when gardening time comes around. Personally, I would like to see further adventures of Herky. He's a delight. Recommended for kids K-3. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).