Ready for Pumpkins by Kate Duke
Hercules, or Herky for short, learned a lot being the classroom guinea pig in Miss MacGuffey’s first grade. He learned to paint, he learned about Halloween, but best of all, he learned that he could plant a garden from seeds. And Herky had seeds from the Halloween pumpkin that he had saved in his cage. So when he was taken for the summer out to the country, he knew he just had to plant his own garden. He met Daisy, a rabbit, who helped him find a sunny place to plant the seeds. Herky dug up the dirt, planted the seeds, and watered them. But then he had to be patient as they grew, and that was the hardest part! The plants grew, flowers appeared, and finally pumpkins. But Herky had to return to school before they turned orange! Will he ever know how his pumpkins turned out?
This is a charming mix of classroom pet story and gardening. Duke makes Herky quite a character. He’s impatient to the point of digging up the seeds to see what is happening, angry when the birds and beetles attack his garden, and yet he is also hard working enough to make a garden in the first place. The writing is simple and reads aloud easily, making this a good book to share with a fall class.
Duke’s art is full of simple lines and bright colors. As the garden grows, she shows the wild beauty of the pumpkin vines, their many flowers and the slow process of pumpkins growing to maturity. Daisy and Herky are engagingly drawn little creatures whose growing friendship mirrors that of the garden.
A great pick for pumpkin season or as an addition to spring growing books too. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House.
Hit the Road, Jack by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Ross MacDonald
Opening this book, I was surprised that it was not based on the song at all. Instead, this is a tribute to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Jack in this picture book is a jackrabbit who longs to travel America. So he leaves New York and rides his bicycle to Boston and then Buffalo. Pennsylvania and Cleveland are next with Detroit too. Jack spends some time in Chicago before heading back into the countryside and hopping a train. A car carries him to the Great Plains and Mount Rushmore. He sees the Rockies and the desert mesas before arriving at the Golden Gate. Jack has reached his west coast destination, but the road still calls.
Burleigh takes the picture book done in verse to another level here. Never forced, always brimming with honesty and joy, this verse rhymes but does so in a sophisticated way. It has all of the rhythm of the beat poets inside of it too, paying double homage to Kerouac both in subject and style. Young readers will explore the United States in this book, but even better, they will get a feel for what makes America great.
MacDonald’s illustrations have a playfulness and joy that matches the text well. Done with a vintage feel, Jack has huge ears but is more human than rabbit most of the time. Shown in his leather jacket and rolled-up jeans, Jack is the ideal companion on the road.
This is a special book where subject matter and form combine to create something all the more amazing. It may be difficult to get this into the hands of the right kids, but it is worth the challenge for a book this good. It will also make a great book to share with elementary classes studying the United States. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books for Young Readers.