Sunday, September 08, 2013

Bernice Is Back! Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller

"Good friends are hard to find," said Sophie.

Sophie's mother had hoped that she would learn to like vegetables, but when she and Sophie visit the farmer's market and select a nice winter squash to take home, Mom doesn't quite expect her daughter to love  squash in quite that way.

Sophie adores that squash.  As her bemused calico cat watches, she wraps her in a doll blanket, rocks her, and names her Bernice!  Bernice goes everywhere Sophie goes.

They somersault down the hill, sit together in the storytime circle at the library, and even return to the market for Bernice to visit her squash friends. Sophie and her squash are inseparable.

Mom is matter-of-fact about this dilemma
"Bernice is a squash, not a friend," she said one morning as they made blueberry waffles. "If we don't eat her soon, she'll get mushy and gross. Let's bake her with marshmallows!"

"Don't listen to her, Bernice," says Sophie.

Sophie's denial continues through the autumn, even though Bernice's firm golden skin begins to look suspiciously spotty. Dad offers a new toy, even suggesting Sophie substitute a nice, solid sugar beet. Or maybe a goldfish named Ace.  Sophie insists that those brown blotches are just Bernice's freckles, but she herself is getting a bit worried. Hoping to perk Bernice up, she takes her back to visit her friends at the market.

"What keeps a squash healthy?" she asks the farmer.

"Fresh air, good clean dirt, and a little love," he replies.

"I have all that," says Sophie.

Back home, Sophie lovingly tucks Bernice under the earth in a nice sunny spot in her back yard, a spot that is soon covered by autumn leaves and then the winter's snow.

Nature takes it course in Pat Zietlow Miller's debut story of a girl and her squash, and in Sophie's Squash (Schwartz & Wade, 2013), spring brings a surprise in the garden. Bernice sprouts and in due time becomes a spreading plant with little squashes, christened Bonnie and Baxter, for Sophie. Miller's humorous text, her strong-minded Sophie, and artist's Anne Wilsdorf's sweet and sunny-hued illustrations have earned this delightful story well-deserved starred reviews, a fine addition to the turn of the season stories favored in the fall. "With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children, and their parents will be happy to read it to them often," prophesies School Library Journal.



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