Perfect Picture Book Friday Embraces Autumn with Sophie’s Squash.

Outside the market, the wood stands sag under the weight of plump pumpkins, colorful gourds, and squash. Each one ready to cart home, carve into a jack-o-lantern, turn into delicious pie, or hearty soup topped with toasted seeds. Autumn, as I’ve mentioned in past posts, is my favorite season. Starting in September, I fill a cookpot with cinnamon sticks, cloves, a dash of vanilla, and enough water to simmer for a good, long time. The sweet steam curls around the rooms, reminding me it’s time to bake my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and roast up a squash for supper. And speaking of roasting up a squash…

For today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review, I’m sharing a beloved picture book, a book my daughter calls iconic, about a determined girl named Sophie, who adores the squash her parents purchase at the farmers’ market. In fact, Sophie loves the squash sooooo much, she paints a face on it, names it Bernice, and considers the squash her best friend. Which raises the question: How do you cook up someone’s best friend?

The answer: You don’t.

Title – Sophie’s Squash

Written by  –  Pat Zietlow Miller

Illustrated by  – Anne Wilsdorf

Published  – Schwartz & Wade Books – 2013

Suitable for ages – 3 to 7.

Topics – Friendship, attachment, companionship, loyalty.

Opening – One bright fall day, Sophie chose a squash at the farmer’ market. Her parents planned t serve it for supper, but Sophie had other ideas.

Amazon Review –  HERE. On a trip to the farmers’ market with her parents, Sophie chooses a squash, but instead of letting her mom cook it, she names it Bernice. From then on, Sophie brings Bernice everywhere, despite her parents’ gentle warnings that Bernice will begin to rot. As winter nears, Sophie does start to notice changes…. What’s a girl to do when the squash she loves is in trouble?

Why do I like this book? Sophie’s Squash is more than a story about a girl who thinks of a squash as her best friend, Sophie names the squash Bernice and cares for it the same as a mother cares for her child. No matter what anyone says against her squash, Sophie defends and protects Bernice. And when her squash gets spotty and soft, Sophie stands by Bernice’s side, seeking help–the same as a parent would seek medical help for their child. For the love of squash, this is flat out one of the best picture books to share with a child (or enjoy all by yourself) this season.

And I have to sing out the praises for the creative talents of the illustrator, Anne Wilsdorf, who gave Sophie a bigger than life, child-pleasing appearance, showing clear emotions from cover to cover. Sophie’s impulsive ways and ginormous heart shine on every page!

Learn more about Pat Zietlow Miller HERE.

Listen to Sophie’s Squash read aloud by the author HERE.

Learn more about Anne Wilsdorf HERE.

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


P.S. If you have a fond memory of the farmers’ Market, a family tradition for this time of year, or you just want to say hi, I hope you’ll scroll down to the comments.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Shares a Tender Topic.

I don’t know if I could single out one memory to share that ties into today’s Perfect Picture Book Review that delves, with gentle hands, into the tender topic of the cycle of life from birth to death.

Growing up on the top of a heavily wooded hill, surrounded by a quilt of farmland, my family encountered a number of animals in need of care. If you’ve been a long-time follower of my blog, you’ll remember a number of stories I’ve shared about the injured animals we welcomed to stay with us while we cared for them and readied them to return to the wild. Unfortunately, not all of the animals survived. I might have learned the concept of death, early on, but no matter how many animals passed away, death never became easier to understand or accept.

The picture book I’m sharing today tells the story of a loss from a unique perspective. Not only do we learn about the life cycle of a chicken from the moment it breaks free of its egg to its untimely death from a predator, but the story guides a child toward an understanding of the way nature works in the wild, and that understanding leads to forgiveness.

Title – Sonya’s Chickens

Written and illustrated by  – Phoebe Wahl

Published  – Tundra Books – 2018

Suitable for ages – 4 to 8.

Topics – The cycle of life, sadness, and comfort.

Opening – One day, Sonya’s papa came home with three fluffy chicks. He gave the chicks to Sonya. “It can be your job to take care of them,” he told her.

The chicks lived in a cardboard box in the house while Sonya and her parents spruced up the old coop in the yard. Sonya took good care of the chicks. She liked to keep them tucked in her sweater for warmth. “I’ll be your mama,” she told them.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. A beautifully told story about love, loss, and the circle of life from Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award winner Phoebe Wahl. Warm, nostalgic illustrations capture the earthy feel of this book about a little girl’s chicken who is stolen by a fox.

Sonya raises her three chickens from the time they are tiny chicks. She feeds them, shelters them, and loves them. Everywhere Sonya goes, her chicks are peeping at her heels. Under her care, the chicks grow into hens and even give Sonya a wonderful gift: an egg! One night, Sonya hears noises coming from the chicken coop and discovers that one of her hens has disappeared. Where did the hen go? What happened to her? When Sonya discovers the answers, she learns some important truths about the interconnectedness of nature and the true joys and sorrows of caring for another creature.

Why do I like this book? Sonya’s Chickens approaches the subject of death with great compassion and tenderness, keeping a child’s emotional needs at the forefront from cover to cover. As a mom, few topics challenged me as much, during my daughter’s early years, as explaining the meaning of death. Phoebe Wahl helps both the main character, Sonya, and the reader understand this aspect of nature in which a predator takes the life of an animal in the child’s care. I was stunned at the power of words that turn Sonya’s sadness and negativity into feelings of understanding and forgiveness.

I would describe the illustrations as enchanting. Through the use of watercolor, collage, and colored pencil Phoebe Wahl presents us with detailed pieces of art that capture her deep love of nature, the innocence of childhood, and the highs and lows of an emotional journey. It isn’t often I find a book that speaks to my heart and delights my eyes and ears so well.

Learn more about Phoebe Wahl HERE.

Other books written and illustrated by Phoebe Wahl are…

Backyard Fairies

The Blue House

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


Selfless Acts of Kindness Come to Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Carmine the Crow has been a favorite picture book of mine for years. I find hope, not in the largest part of the story, but in the book’s heart-hugging ending. The story introduces us to an ordinary crow by the name of Carmine who, like other crows, lives in a tree and feels a strong attraction to objects with a glint or a glimmer.  However, Carmine’s extraordinary heart is revealed when he saves the life of a swan and is rewarded with a rare gift for his kindness.

Carmine the Crow

As is true for all literary characters, when given the gift of something astonishing or when placed in a stressful situation, their true nature is revealed by their actions, words, and choices. The gift the swan gives to Carmine is a small box filled with ancient stardust–powerful enough to make any wish come true.   Any wish.    Instead of using the powers of the stardust to grant his own impossible wishes, Carmine sacrifices his dreams to help others. He gives away pinch after pinch of the sparkling stardust until he has no more to offer, not even to himself.

Carmine the Crow-2

With all the compassion both words and illustrations can hold, Heidi Holder delivers an unforgettable ending as brilliant and promising as the magic stardust.

Title – Carmine The Crow

Written and illustrated by- Heidi Holder

Published by- Farrar, Straus and Giroux – 1992

Topics – Selfless acts of kindness, friendship, and dreams.

Opening – Carmine the Crow was a very old crow and he lived in a very old tree. He loved to collect shiny objects and had masses of glittery things in his attic: thimbles, beads, keys, anything with a glint of a glimmer. He was especially fond of his tinfoil collection.

Find the book, Carmine The Crow, on Amazon HERE.

Learn More about Heidi Holder HERE.

Interesting facts about crows HERE.

Until next Friday.