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BOOK REVIEWS, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade Readers, Realistic Fiction

PUMPKIN HEADS written by Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks

Pumpkin Heads is a sweet teenage rom-com. Deja and Josiah have been working at the Succotash Hut in the Pumpkin Patch every autumn during high school. Tonight is Halloween of their senior year: their last day working at The Patch. They are both planning to be away in college next fall. Josiah has been mooning over another girl who works in The Fudge Shoppe as long as they have been working at The Patch, but he has never had the courage to speak directly to her.

Deja has decided that her mission for their last day at work is to help Josiah finally talk  to the girl of his dreams. Josiah, a 5-time winner of the Most Valuable Pumpkin Patch Person employee award, is hesitant to abandon their duties in the Succotash Hut in order to attempt such an venture. What follows is a delightful (sometimes caper-esque) journey through The Pumpkin Patch full of just-missed-her moments, comedic interruptions, tender instances of introspection and the predictable–and fully believable–realization that Josiah has lost track of what he really wants in the fantasy of his ‘dream girl.’

Rowell’s written story and Hicks’ visual interpretation combine seamlessly for a rich, entertaining read. The definitively fall palette of the book perfectly complements the story and the pacing is absolutely perfect. The conversation between Rowell and Hicks at the end of the book was a great opportunity to learn a little about their collaboration and the genesis of the story for Pumpkin Heads. It was interesting for me to discover that early sketches of Deja and Josiah came off as too young and they were aged up for the actual book. It revealed to me a slight bias in my reading: I felt Deja and Josiah’s characters in the book looked too ‘old’ for the storyline. Reading the authors’ specific intent to age the characters to a more realistic place for the storyline reminded me that I need to be aware of the target audience for a book–and whether or not I am a member of that audience. While I believe readers of all ages can find things to enjoy in all books, I am aware that each work is written in hopes of resonating in a particular way with a specific audience.

A solid 3.5 star read, I found Pumpkin Heads to be a thoroughly enjoyable. I will be recommending it to middle grade students–and their parents.

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