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Friday, January 3, 2014

Sophie's Squash, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2013. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"That afternoon, Sophie's father took her shopping. "Sugar beet," he said, "Bernice is a squash. Why don't you pick a nice toy to play with instead?"
But the trucks were too hard, and the dolls were too soft. Sophie clutched Bernice tightly. "No thanks," she said. "I have everything I need."

Remember when your kids turned an old box into a train car? Or when they used the biggest set of blanket they could find to build a fort that covered the entire living room, using furniture to hold it high enough that they could climb inside? Or pretending that they had a friend who came to dinner with them, and should not be shut out of the kitchen just because you didn't want anyone to fall down the basement stairs? 'MOM! Anna is in the porch. Open the door!'

When Sophie and her family make a trip to a nearby open air market, she buys a squash that finds an instant place in her heart. A marker gives the squash a personality and Sophie gives it a name...Bernice. Bernice will not be food for this family! Rather, she will be Sophie's constant companion. She is just the right size for holding and bouncing and cuddling. Sophie is enthralled!

Her parents try to dissuade her from her obsession with her new best friend:

"Every night, Sophie gave Bernice a bottle, a hug and a kiss. "Well, we did hope she'd love vegetables," Sophie's mother told her father."

Sophie is adamant that she will keep Bernice forever. Her parents are accepting of her love for the squash, and don't push her to give it up. Ultimately, it is Sophie who notices subtle changes in her best friend. Bernice can't somersault as well as she once did. A farmer at the market has some good advice for Sophie, when asked how to keep the squash healthy. Sophie takes that advice, and carefully gives Bernice everything she needs.

A new friend helps Sophie pass the long winter days. Spring brings a lovely surprise!

The watercolor and ink illustrations are perfectly drawn to match this totally charming tale. They fill the pages with family life, love for a friend, a child's imagination, and all the many expressive details as Sophie lives life with a fabulous friend.

I'm sure that you will love it!

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