Giant Pumpkin Suite

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 Bruitgan has grown seven inches in the last eighth 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. Musical talent 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.

Siblings who approach summer vacation with different plans reflecting their varied personalities makes for a feel good story perfect for young kids. Great well-developed characters will pull at the heart strings.

Rose is an incredibly driven child; more like an adult trapped inside a few feet of cuteness trying to make her mark upon the world. A cellist who the word exceptional doesn’t seem to describe her ability enough and who takes OCD to a new level for someone so young. Her narrow minded focus is causing her other relationships to fall by the wayside even with her twin brother.

Rose wasn’t the easiest character to like with her borderline narcissistic attitude towards her musical talent and how she treats those who care about her like her brother and neighbor. Though she begins to round off those hard edges and it’s this evolving growth in her personality that helps win you over.

Her twin has found a cause to focus on as he jumps in to help his neighbor with growing pumpkins. This says much about the character of a young boy who would put an adult neighbor’s welfare above typical summer pursuits. But as Thomas finds the challenge a bit much on his own, his sister manages to find time to fill the gap.

The pressure on her to perfect her talent while helping her brother builds until a trick of fate changes everything for them both.

The other characters like those involved with Rose’s cello playing and the neighbors may not take as much space in the story but the parts they fill are important and meaningful. No one feels like filler or just there to pad the page count. I enjoyed the diversity especially as it seemed to accurately reflect the modern setting the story is set in.

If you’ve ever been curious on how to grow a pumpkin reading this will definitely give you the foundation as the author obviously did some well detailed research to provide a realistic story. It ended up making my daughters and I try our hand and although we managed a few before the heat in Texas destroyed our plants it was fun taking something out of a book and putting it into practice. We learned some things along the way so next year maybe we can have our own prize winning pumpkin.

You’ll also get a crash course in classical music which was another real world lesson we were able to jump into as I showed my daughters YouTube videos of cellists playing Bach’s compositions and we googled information about him and others.

There is also a look at some of the richness of the Japanese culture and thankfully our city is hosting a tea and overview soon so I can’t wait to take my girls so they can get an in person perspective of what the author used.

The only negatives I see is that the beginning is so focused on music that if you aren’t interested it’ll probably be hard to hold your attention and it’s a little on the long side so it might be hard to hold the attention of the younger audience unless they break it up into small bits. I read this to my daughters a few chapters every night which made it easier to keep them interested.

I appreciated that even if we didn’t get a happy perfect ending, it was a realistic one that provided a great life lesson.

Thank you to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for allowing me to review this!

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*image & synopsis from Netgalley

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