Friday, October 12, 2018

A Time to Shine: Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins

It was a few days before Halloween.

A storekeeper places some pumpkins on the shelf outside his shop, ten bright orange pumpkins and one big, bumpy-lumpy yellow winter squash.

The pumpkins are not all alike. One is tall and thin; one is small and squat. Some tip to the right; some lean to the left. But all have perky green stems, the perfect handle for the shopper--and all hope to become Jack o' Lanterns, glowing from one of windows on the street. All but one.

He was as big as a basketball--and twice as round. Orange as an orange!

He was perfect in every way from every angle. But--he had no stem.

Poor little stemless pumpkin with just a stump.

But Stem-Schmem! Little Stumpkin still has hopes. Surely there must be a family that prefers a stemless pumpkin. But the days go by. Children point to the pumpkin they want and leave happy. Every night another window on the street has a Jack o' Lantern glowing from an upstairs windowsill. Still Stumpkin has hope. Plenty of empty windows remain on the street.

But then there are no other pumpkins left on the shelf. And when someone buys the bumpy misshapen squash, Stumpkin despairs.

"The GOURD?" thought Stumpkin. "I guess that's that!"

But the shopkeeper hasn't forgotten Stumpkin, in Lucy Ruth Cummins' just-in-time for Halloween story, Stumpkin (Atheneum Books, 2018), as a perfect Jack o' Lantern, Stumpkin, helps light the night. Author-illustrator's Cummins' illustrations follow the Halloween color scheme, with human figures shown in black silhouettes set against the bright orange of the pumpkins, giving the pages an an engaging glow. A perfect story for just before a visit to the pumpkin patch, this is a gentle story with pathos balanced with humor, combined to show that all pumpkins should get their time to shine. The greater theme, of course, is that there is value in all things, the imperfect as well as the perfect, if we have eyes to see it.

For younger kids, pair this one before Halloween with Margery Cuyler's The Bumpy Little Pumpkin.

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