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Pumpkins, Friendship With a Touch of Competition, and Science Combined in Charming New Novel From Cathleen Young

Updated on May 31, 2019
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Cindy Hewitt is a retired teacher with a passion for children's literature. Read-aloud stories add quality to a child's life experiences.

Pumpkin Competition Brings Friends Back Together with a Surprise Twist

Delightful story for ages 8-12 for all who like competition
Delightful story for ages 8-12 for all who like competition | Source

Friendship and Competition Can Be Compatible

Cathleen Young's The Pumpkin War is a delightful story for ages 8-12 for all who enjoy competition. Friendship and competition can be happily managed if both people value the friendship. Young readers in this age group are sometimes very competitive and they will recognize Billie's need for revenge when she is bumped out of the previous year's giant pumpkin competition by her best friend as she is racing to cross the finish line with her pumpkin. The giant pumpkin contest is held at the end of the summer on Madeline Island. Adults and children alike all want to win this contest each year. The contest has a special twist to it because everyone must not only grow the biggest pumpkin, but they must hollow their pumpkin out and paddle it across the lake in order to win the coveted prize.

The friendship between Billie and Sam was damaged when he won the contest last year. Billie is determined to win this year and is more than ready to grow the largest pumpkin. She values winning and already has a bulletin board full of ribbons from winning many contests.

Billie spends the summer months tending her pumpkin and September finally arrives. Science played a part in the success of growing her giant pumpkin. The big day arrives and Billie and Sam enter the race as they paddle their pumpkins down the lake. The story ends with Billie's surprise discovery that her friendship with Sam was always more valuable than winning. The famous scientist Einstein plays a part in Billie's examination of her conscience and her decision to take Sam back as her best friend.

Young writes with feeling and brings the realization that friendship is much more important than winning. The Pumpkin War was published by Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House Children's Books. It is recommended for ages 8-12 and has an ISBN of 978-1-524-76733-4.

From Season to Season in Growing the Giant Pumpkin

Planting in the summer
Planting in the summer | Source
Harvest in the fall
Harvest in the fall | Source

Bring The Pumpkin War Into the Classroom for Social Concepts and Science

Teachers who teach children in the middle grades will want to add Cathleen Young's The Pumpkin War to the classroom library. Pumpkins for the fall are always popular and fun for students to learn about. This fun story also offers the opportunity to discover life lessons about friendship and competition. The Pumpkin War is a chapter book that lends itself to several ways to extend the interest in reading for students in the middle grades.

*Read The Pumpkin War as a class with several chapters read aloud each day in a group reading session. Teachers might like to assign the book as a book for students to read individually for book reports or other projects for reading.

*Call attention to the reason that Billie and Sam's friendship became tarnished. Brainstorm with students ideas that may have tarnished a friendship in their own life. Were they able to repair a damaged friendship?

*Brainstorm in a class discussion for ideas about how students feel about competitions. How can they compete with friends and still maintain the friendship?

*Students might like to have their own class or school competition for growing the biggest pumpkin for the fall season. Many schools now have spaces that can be designated for growing vegetables or other crops. Engage the students in learning what it takes to grow a pumpkin.

*Einstein plays a surprising role in the story. Introduce your students to Einstein to learn about his contributions to math and science. Billie realizes that she is like Einstein in that she does not like uncertain events. She also learns that life can be unpredictable. She relates these ideas to her friendship with Sam and the loss of the pumpkin race the year before.

*Students might like to have the opportunity for a creative writing assignment in which they write their own story of a friendship or other unpredictable event in their life and how they dealt with the concept of unpredictable events in their life.

© 2019 Cindy Hewitt

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