Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Book Review: The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young


Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: The Pumpkin War
Author: Cathleen Young
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Pages: Hardcover; 192
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Source: Publisher
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Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers looking for a sweet story about real family and friend relationships.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Former best friends compete to see who can grow the biggest pumpkin and win the annual giant pumpkin race on the lake. A great pick for fans of Half a Chance and Gertie's Leap to Greatness.

At the end of every summer, Madeline Island hosts its famous pumpkin race. All summer, adults and kids across the island grow giant, 1000-pound pumpkins, then hollow one out, and paddle in it across the lake to the cheers of the entire town.

Twelve-year-old Billie loves to win; she has a bulletin board overflowing with first prize ribbons. Her best friend Sam doesn't care much about winning, or at least Billie didn't think so until last summer's race, when his pumpkin crashed into hers as she was about to cross the finish line, and he won. This summer, Billie is determined to get revenge by growing the best and biggest pumpkin, and beat Sam in the race. It's a tricky science to grow pumpkins, since weather, bugs and other critters can wipe out a crop. Then a surprise visit from a long lost relative shakes things up, and Billie begins to see her family, and her bond with Sam, in a new way.

What a super sweet book! There is so much goodness wrapped up in here, and this was exactly what I needed to read this week. Did you know that Giant Pumpkin Regattas are a real thing? I didn't! When I started reading The Pumpkin War, my first instinct was to go and do research on the very thing that Billie was working so hard to win. Yes, friends, it's a real competition. Do yourself a favor and go look at some photos before you start reading this book. It makes things so much better!

Anyway, it's safe to say that I loved reading this. Billie was a character who made me smile, because she's exactly what I'd expect a competitive twelve year old to be. I loved that Young didn't just try to pull out the good parts of Billie's life. Yes, she has a loving family and a farm that does well for itself. Still, there are moments of stress and anger too. Watching Billie interact with her new baby brother, battle valiantly against Mother Nature for her prize pumpkin, and even navigate the balance between competition and friendship, was a wonderful thing. There will be a lot of young readers who see themselves in Billie, the good and the hard parts, and that's a really good thing.

My gardening loving heart was also all atwitter at the deep explanations of all the hard work that Billie and her family had to do on their farm. You can tell that Young has done the research. Billie tends bees, and extracts honey. She knows which flowers to plant, to attract bees, and what to plant to get rid of pests. In fact, she even goes through and has to hand pick cucumber beetles to save her pumpkins which, from someone who has done that, I can tell you isn't easy! Her hard work, her sweat, and the ultimate reward at the end, were all just wonderfully detailed. There's even a nod in here to not using pesticides in order to save the bees. Which, to that I say huzzah! Agreed!

I think what I loved most about this story is just the fact that it has such important messages but they aren't at all heavy handed. Billie faces jealousy and guilt. She faces annoyance, shame, and even anger. Underneath all of that though is the idea that family and friends are the basis of everything. Time and time again she finds herself helping, or being helped, by someone else. That beautiful balance is so important, so why not start teaching it to young children and start things off right? I loved it, and I love this book!



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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