Awww, Pumpkinheads was all the cuteness I needed two weeks before Halloween! Put on your PJs and curl up with your favorite pumpkin spice latte because this may be the cutest book you’ll ever read about autumn!
AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell
ILLUSTRATOR: Faith Erin Hicks
PUBLICATION DATE: August 27, 2019
GENRE: graphic novel; realistic fiction
SETTING: maybe the coolest pumpkin patch on the planet; Halloween night
GIVE IT TO: MS, HS
Josiah (“Josie”) and Deja have worked together at the pumpkin patch every fall since freshman year. Now, they are seniors, and it’s their last night working there…ever. By next year, both Josie and Deja will be in college, and well…who knows what they’ll be doing. So tonight, Deja decides they are on a mission: Josie is going to finally talk to the girl who works in the fudge shop, the one he’s been silently crushing on for the past four years.
THE SHORT VERSION
Adorable book! A must for secondary school libraries and a maybe for elementary libraries (keep reading for more on that).
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT PUMPKINHEADS
There’s just something about autumn, especially if you live in a place that actually experiences it. I grew up in the mountains of southwest Virginia, and autumn there was just magical. I can remember the whoosh and rustle of crunchy brown leaves falling all around me when the wind blew. The smell of our old cast iron stove burning wood in the basement. And my dad, carving a jack-o-lantern every year to “scare away the trick-or-treaters” that didn’t trick-or-treat in our neck of the woods anyway.
This book reminded me of all of that. I think this must be the coolest pumpkin patch anywhere! The food sounds unreal (that pumpkin bomb!), and it has so many activities it’s no wonder Josie and Deja had not experienced them all. I was all excited to go to this pumpkin patch and live there forever, but sadly, Rainbow Rowell mentions at the end that DeKnock’s World-Famous Pumpkin Patch & Autumn Jamboree is a fictional place that they wanted to make the “Disneyland of pumpkin patches.” To that, I say, “Mission accomplished.”
I love the two main characters, who are friends who don’t want to say goodbye. Josie has been the “Most Valuable Pumpkin Patch Person” for nearly every month he’s worked there. He loves working at the patch and knows how much he will miss it. He’s shy and awkward and not very confident in his girl-wooing skills. Deja is an outgoing girl who is clearly well-liked. She’s dated lots of people (both male and female) who work at the patch, and it seems some of those people still have a crush on her. I love that she’s African-American and curvy. That’s not something you see often in a potential love interest.
The colors used in the artwork are perfect for this story! It’s heavy in oranges, greens, dark blues, and grays. You can see the sun setting in the background as the evening wears on. I’m guessing this is set somewhere in the southern part of the US because though it’s Halloween, no one is wearing a coat. When I lived in Texas, we weren’t usually wearing coats on Halloween, either.
There are a lot of random touches throughout that give Pumpkinheads added flair. I started to list several things, but then I erased them. I don’t want to take away from your experience reading this book. Just know that there will be puns. And you will laugh out loud. And you’ll get hungry.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I loved this book all the way through! If you’re looking for a lot of action, then maybe it isn’t for you. It’s more of a charming slice-of-life story. It’s simply one day in the lives of two teens who are sad to leave their seasonal job.
LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW
No concerns for middle and high school librarians. I actually think Pumpkinheads could also be okay for elementary school. There is a kiss at the end, but it’s only one frame on one page. There’s also a couple kissing in the background in the corn maze. Neither kiss is anything more than students see in Disney movies. The characters are high school seniors, but Disney characters are often teenagers, too. Ariel and Aurora both got married at age 16!
If your elementary library has Telgemeier’s Drama, then you will be fine to get this book, too. Content is no worse than Drama.
Themes: autumn, Halloween, friendship, food, puns, seizing the day
Would adults like this book? YES! So much fun!
Would I buy this for my high school library? 100% yes, multiple copies.
Would I buy this for my middle school library? 100% yes, multiple copies.
Would I buy this for my elementary school library?
I personally would, yes. I’m sure some of you will disagree with me because the professional reviewers recommend Grades 7-12, plus it’s also labeled as YA. But all those kids who read Drama over and over and over will love Pumpkinheads, too. It’s full of positive messages about teens who work hard, love their jobs, and–without even thinking twice about it–perform little kindnesses for strangers all night long.
Language: I don’t remember any profanity. I flipped through the book again to double-check, and all I noticed were some good vocabulary words like vengeance, sullying, dissuaded, and initiative. At one point, Deja calls a boy who stole her caramel apple a “snot-faced” thief.
Sexuality: mild; there are two kisses, one of which is a random couple in the background; talk of previous dating relationships (nothing serious), Deja has several “exes” that work at the pumpkin patch (but all are friendly and nice to her); one of Deja’s exes is a girl.
Violence: very mild; slapstick humor involving an irascible ruminant
BOOKTALK OR DISPLAY THIS WITH:
Have you read Pumpkinheads? What do you think about including it in elementary libraries?