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Monday, September 5, 2016

Sophie's Squash Go To School, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wisdorf. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2016. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"And then there was Steven Green. He sat by Sophie at circle time. Played near Sophie during recess. And watched while Sophie painted. "Stop breathing on me," Sophie said. "Steven's just trying to be nice," said Ms. Park. But Sophie wasn't interested. So the next time Steven appeared, Sophie bounced Bonnie and Baxter on her knees and said, "I already have friends."

In 2013's Sophie's Squash, Sophie welcomed Bernice's twins after a winter hibernation, and just at the end of the story. They were the progeny of her pet squash Bernice who had met her end after a long and loving relationship. Darn that rotting flesh! Now, Sophie is taking Bonnie and Baxter to school with her. Her schoolmates have questions:

"Are those toys?" asked Liam.
"Do they bounce?" asked Roshni.
"Can we EAT them?" asked Noreen.

"NO!" said Sophie.
"No, no, no! I grew them
in my garden. They're my

Sophie is content to be with Bonnie and Baxter during the time she must spend at school. All of Steven's attentive behavior toward her is lost on her. Her parents' enthusiasm for a new friendship is unwelcome. As the days go by, Sophie begins to see the value in human friendship. She knows from previous experience that Bonnie and Baxter are not 'forever' friends.

The time comes when they can no longer play the games they have always shared. Her mother gently reminds Sophie that it's time to tuck them in for a winter's sleep. She will miss them - spring 'seemed very far away'. Returning to school without them leaves Sophie longing for their presence. An argument with Steven over his attempts at friendship leaves a torn picture, hurt feelings and an angrier Sophie.

Her parents try to help, and Steven is persistent in wanting to be her friend. It gives Sophie pause and, after listening to her heart and her head, she makes certain that friendship is at the top of her list ... and Steven finally reaps the benefits.

The lovely and lively watercolor and China ink artwork ensures that young readers grasp the emotions felt by both Steven and Sophie as they navigate the uncertain waters of making new friends.
It takes skill, understanding, support and patience. Luckily, Steven has them in spades.

Love the endpapers!

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