Monday, July 31, 2017

MG Realistic Fiction: Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill

Author: Melanie Heuiser Hill
Format: eBook 
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Number of Pages: Hardcover 448
Publishing:  September 12th, 2017

Source:  E-ARC from NetGalley

The Giant Pumpkin Suite is set in Minnesota where twelve-year-old Rose and her twin brother Thomas have very different plans for their summer vacation.  Rose is an exceptional cellist and student, skipping ahead in school.  She is very driven, setting her goals onto sticky-notes, "sit more" and "win the Bach Cello Suites Competition," for which she plans to play her cello every free minute she has.  If she can manage to win the competition, she is sure to get a fellowship with Maestro Waldenstein, one of her life long dreams.    But, playing her cello all the time will also leave very little time for Thomas or her neighbor Jane.  Even the best-laid plans can dramatically change when their neighbor, Mr. Pickering is injured after falling down his basement stairs and Thomas takes over growing Mr. Pickering's pumpkin seed.  A responsibility that turns out to be too much for Thomas to handle alone, so Rose unwilling steps in to help.  At first, everything is going well Rose is doing the research and Thomas is performing the day to day chores to help the pumpkin seed to sprout, but then Rose is involved in a serious accident altering all of her plans for the future.  Now growing a prize winning pumpkin for the Minnesota State Fair takes on a new meaning for both of the siblings, but with a little help from their neighbors, they might even be able to win.

At a first glance, Rose comes off as a slightly unlikable character, maybe because of her over confidence in her musical abilities or just because of how she treats her brother and neighbor Jane.  After she is injured, Rose spends more time on her brother's project and she begins to grow and change.  It's her character growth that I enjoyed most about the story.   Although, I also really liked Rose's Cello teacher, Mrs. Holling who recognized that Rose was burning herself out with practicing her cello so much and forced her to play for no more than one hour per day.  Giant Pumpkin Suite also includes lots of details about how to grow a prize winning pumpkin, including how to pollinate the flowers, composting and even the mail-ordering of worms.  Things initially I didn't think I would be too interested in, but it really started to grow on me,  growing a giant pumpkin seemed to take a lot of work and the whole process was pretty fascinating to read about.  Rose has such a passion for playing the Cello and I learned quite a bit about Bach.  For example, I never knew Bach included math, puzzles, and ciphers into the structure of his music and that the number fourteen held a significance to him.   Rose also had a fascination with numbers taking the letters of a persons name and the corresponding number for their place in the alphabet to determine a total numerical value.   So, for example, the sum of the letters in Bach's name equaled fourteen, she also used this strategy to classify people as a good or bad person.   Giant Pumpkin Suite included many diverse neighbors for Rose and Thomas, with one being Japanese, Latina, and a gay couple who become actively involved in helping with the project as well.  Mrs. Kiyo was delightful and I especially enjoyed reading about the Japanese tea the siblings shared with her with all the lovely details about wagashi cookies.  I thought this was a wonderful sibling story and although it was sad when Rose was injured and her ability to play the cello was changed, things were still resolved in a happy if not realistic way. 

Favorite lines when Mrs. Kiyo is describing a bowl that was broken and repaired with gold,  "The gold reminds us that beauty is found in the story of the object, its history,” said Mrs. Kiyo. “The bowl is more beautiful, more valuable, for all that has happened to it.”


  1. Great review! I'm a sucker for books about musical instruments!

  2. I don't remember hearing of this one before. Sounds unique. Thanks for sharing. :)