YOUNG READING: 'Sophie's Squash'
By Jean Patrick
Daily Republic youth book reviewer
"Sophie's Squash," by Pat Zietlow Miller, is about love and vegetables.
It all begins when Sophie chooses a squash at the farmers market. Her parents want to serve it for supper. But Sophie has other plans.
"It was just the right size to hold in her arms. Just the right size to bounce on her knee. Just the right size to love."
Next Sophie uses a marker to draw a face on the squash. She calls her Bernice. They are the best of friends.
They go to storytime at the library, visit friends (the other squash) at the farmers market and practice somersaults down the hill.
But darkness looms. Her mom wants to bake Bernice with marshmallows. ("Won't that be yummy?" she asks.) Later, Bernice gets blotches and becomes kind of soft.
Fortunately, Sophie gets some good advice from a farmer for keeping squash healthy. Air, dirt and love.
Sophie figures out the rest.
"Sophie's Squash" works on so many different levels. For one, there's the fierce loyalty of friendship. When kids tease Sophie about Bernice's spots, Sophie calls them "FRECKLES!" When her parents speak of baking her, Sophie tells Bernice not to listen.
On the science level, there's the lesson of the life cycle. After Sophie applies the farmer's advice, she begins to see a new form of Bernice.
On the literary level, there are whispers of "Charlotte's Web." Bernice -- like Wilbur -- must not be eaten. And just as Wilbur lives to see Charlotte's children, Sophie will see the offspring of Bernice.
Meanwhile, the illustrations of Anne Wilsdorf are the perfect match. With just two dot eyes and a one-line smile, she brings Bernice to life. Also, she tenderly captures the realism of each moment, from the posture of a preschooler attempting a somersault to the leafy sprawls of a new squash plant.
"Sophie's Squash" has it all. Life, loss and regeneration. Family, faithfulness and love.
"Sophie's Squash." By Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf. Schwartz and Wade, 2013. 40 pp.