Monday, September 11, 2017

Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuser Hill, 2017

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Who are you, if you can’t be what you always expected? A moving coming-of-age tale of prodigy and community, unlikely friendship and growing things.

Twelve-year-old Rose Brutigan has grown seven inches in the last eight months. She’s always been different from her twin brother, Thomas, but now she towers over him in too many ways. The gap in their interests continues to widen as well. Musically talented Rose is focused on winning the upcoming Bach Cello Suites Competition, while happy-go-lucky Thomas has taken up the challenge of growing a giant pumpkin in the yard of their elderly neighbor, Mr. Pickering. But when a serious accident changes the course of the summer, Rose is forced to grow and change in ways she never could have imagined. Along the way there’s tap dancing and classic musicals, mail-order worms and neighborhood-sourced compost, fresh-squeezed lemonade, the Minnesota State Fair — and an eclectic cast of local characters that readers will fall in love with.

(448 pages)

Giant Pumpkin Suite
may not be a book for everyone, but I for one really liked it.

For students who are a little bit wary of reading, I will point out the 400+ page-count and acknowledge that there isn't much "adventure" in the traditional sense of the word. With its focus on Rose's self-perception issues and a neighborhood-wide quest to grow a pumpkin (complete with discussions of planting techniques and compost recipes), Giant Pumpkin Suite is not going to appeal to every reader.

But for those who do choose to enjoy the book, it really is a very nice read. My least favorite parts were probably those that focused on Rose's obsession with being prim and proper and grown-up (and the inevitable portrayal of her as an academically advanced yet emotionally stunted child, a stereotype that I find mildly offensive). It's not as bad as in many other books, though, and there's so much else to balance it out. Her twin brother Thomas isn't depicted as being mentally slow, but rather as just a very normal, typical twelve-year-old boy. Their quest to grow the pumpkin is interesting enough on its own, but it's the eclectic cast of characters from the neighborhood who join together to help them do it who really carry the day. My favorite neighbor was probably the Japanese woman across the street who donated leaves from her yard for the mulch and who provided a beautiful glimpse into the culture of her home country and also provided emotional support for Rose while she was going through some rough times.

It's a slow book, but it's an interesting one and a very diverse one. I highly recommend it to anyone who thinks it might be interesting.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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