Inclusion Meets Perfect Picture Book Friday

I waited on the bleachers, wedged between a competitive jock, an energetic cheerleader, and other eager students to play volleyball. The gym teacher called up two students to be team leaders.

“Take turns,” he said, “calling out the names of the classmates you want on your team.” Without saying these exact words, the basic translation goes something like this… Choose the most popular kids first, and work your way down through the least desirable ones. By the way, this statement isn’t open for debate; it’s a sad fact.

I watched as classmate after classmate dashed down bleachers to stand with their team leader. Soon, I had ample space around me. Space enough to stretch my legs and arms, flail them if I was in the mood, and not touch anyone because I was the only student left, and both teams had a matched number of players. Go ahead and dab at your eyes with the nearest tissue or your sleeve. I’ll wait.

At this point, everyone turned toward the bleachers. Their eyes bored into me as if I were a strange ingredient that would destroy their perfect recipe. Does anyone out there know what it’s like to hear, “We don’t want Leslie on our team!” or “Well, neither do we!” Anyone???

[Okay, straight off, I duck when a ball flies at my head. It’s instinctive. I don’t fight the impulse or make apologies for it. I know I do this, and everyone in my class knew this about me, too.]

The gym teacher, confident I wasn’t the make-it-or-break-it player to help either team win or lose, assigned me to one of the teams. I walked past the cheering group and over to the bunch that couldn’t contain their groans.

As you might have guessed, I ducked when the ball flew at me or sidestepped it every chance I got. In the last minute of the game, when both teams were tied, the opposing team went in for the kill. One of the big guys hefted the ball straight for my head, accompanied by a derogatory remark. I got mad, raised my hands together in a hard fist, and BAM! I scored the point that changed how everyone looked at me.

A bunch of my teammates started swearing in that good way that meant they couldn’t believe what just happened. The teacher shook his head in disbelief. “I didn’t think you had it in you,” he said, writing an A after my name in his grade book.

The takeaway from this story is that the small and meek can make a difference when given a chance (or when angered), which leads me to my second autumn-perfect picture book review of The Littlest Pumpkin.

Title – The Littlest Pumpkin

Written by  –  R.A. Herman

Illustrated by  – Betina Ogden

Published  – Scholastic – 2001

Suitable for ages – 4 to 8.

Topics – Dreams and inclusion

Opening – It was Halloween, and there were 18 pumpkins left at Bartlett’s Farm Stand. The pumpkins looked their very best, because they all wanted to be taken home and made into jolly jack-o’-lanterns.

The Littlest Pumpkin had the biggest dreams of all. She saw herself shining in the dark, with ghosts, monsters, witches, and fairies gathered around her singing a Halloween song. And today was the day when all her dreams were going to come true.

Amazon Review HERE – When Bartlett’s Farm Stand closes for the season, the Littlest Pumpkin, who longs to make someone happy for Halloween, is devastated to be the only pumpkin left, but when a group of mice come along, they make the Littlest Pumpkin the happiest pumpkin in the world!

Why do I like this book? How could I read this book and not connect with the Littlest Pumpkin? Her dreams were just as big and valid as the dreams of the other 17 pumpkins gathered together at Bartlett’s Farm Stand. And despite her wish to be chosen by a child that Halloween, she was passed over again and again until… The heart-hugging ending which I won’t give away. This story offers hope, and proof that dreams can come true.

Learn more about R.A. Herman HERE.

Learn more about Betina Ogden HERE.

I invite you to visit me next week for The Monday Poems.


10 thoughts on “Inclusion Meets Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. OMG! The first part of your story could be mine. What an awful way to pick a team. Now, I never redeemed myself like you did but the gym teachers finally caught on and gave me the job of scorekeeper so I didn´t have to suffer the humiliation of being the last one picked. Small, bookish girls are never wanted on the team! The Little Pumpkin Book sounds sweet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It didn’t take long to realize that writing was a far better use of my time. Yes, having rejections thrown at me comes with the sting a volleyball can bring on, but there are precious few things in this world that bring me as much happiness. I figured I couldn’t be the only one who had experienced a moment similar to the one I shared. I often thought that gym class should offer two choices each day so everyone gets to participate in an activity they like and can excel at. If I had been in your gym class, I would have enjoyed being a co-scorekeeper with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a sweet Halloween book! Perfect theme for children. Great cover!

    I was athletic in sports like baseball, but I didn’t like volleyball because I was tiny and got hit in the nose with the ball or shoved by others. So I can related to your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is definitely one of my favorite Halloween picture books. It’s written and illustrated with a heaping helping of heart. And, yes, I received a variety of injuries during sports games in gym class more often than I’d like to admit to or remember. The jammed index finger from basketball had my hand swollen to the point it somewhat matched the basketball.


    • And we continue to find common ground in our friendship. 🙂 I have to tell you that from a writer’s standpoint, writing about the memory was a bazillion times more fun than participating in that game, even if I did manage to bring in the winning point through a moment of anger. I’m glad you enjoyed what I wrote.


  3. My heart goes out to you and that little pumpkin! I really want to know how the book ends, so I’m going to have to find it! And now I want to know if you’re ever planning to turn your team-rejection experience into a picture book—because it’s a GREAT story! I’m sorry to say that I NEVER found that redeeming moment in PE, LOL, but I love being able to live vicariously through your experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Jilanne, I’m actually considering working that memory into my middle-grade novel. But, I could definitely plan a PB around that unforgettable moment as easily. Thanks for the encouragement. It’s great that my story brought you into the moment enough for you to enjoy my isolated sports victory. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Or Leslie, do both! So glad you got that moment and memory. Unfortunately, like Jilanne said, too many never get there. But fortunately, High school & especially PE, isn’t a “life-long” event, though the scars can be. Thank yo for sharing such a heart warming book. You and Susanna are on the same wave length this week!


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