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Monday, October 27, 2014

Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices, written by David M. Schwartz and photos by Dwight Kuhn. Creston Books. 2013. $21.50 ages 8 and up

"Some think that mice like me are cute nibbling on a pumpkin, but it's not cute being everybody else's lunch. Weasel, gopher, owl, snake, badger, bobcat, house cat, rat - they all want mouse pie!"

I read about this book last year, and didn't get it in time to share. So, here it is for you now!

It's a great mix of fact and fiction...I call that faction. The pumpkin is happy to be a jack-o-lantern and help the children who come to the door celebrate this exciting time of the year. Following that special night, it is off to the compost bin where a mouse, a squirrel, a slug and even a fly have something to say about how much they enjoy pumpkins. The fly is about as gross as you might assume:

"My keen fly nose smells what I am looking for - dead fish, rotten meat, dog doo - the stinkier, the better! A rotting pumpkin is perfect. I taste with my feet. You're gonna love hearing how I eat. I vomit on the pumpkin flesh. My vomit dissolves pumpkin nutrients so I can lap them up. A delicious, nutritious morning smoothie!"

Again I say....EWWWW!

As the memory of Halloween fades, so does the pumpkin itself.  The molds grow and tell readers what they are and what they do. It is only when the skin has rotted that the sow bug can find sustenance in the rotten flesh. The pumpkin continues to have a voice, despite the changes from that once admired jack-o-lantern:

"Am I still a pumpkin? My top is collapsing, and my skin is a mess of molds. they grow all over each other and right through me, eating my flesh from the outside-in and from the inside-out! Not even winter snows and low temperatures have slowed them down..."
Soon, it is nothing but a 'rotten mess spilling my seeds on the garden soil.' Not good for anything any longer. Or is it?

This is science at its most interesting! David Schwartz gives great descriptions of the whole decomposition process, without lengthy explanation or writing beyond his young audience's understanding. The photographs are visually informative and quite memorable. Watching how the pumpkin's face changes over time might just remind them of other pumpkins from past Halloweens. Now, they know exactly what happened!

 A glossary of terms and useful “Classroom Investigations” are found at the end of the book.


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