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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pumpkinheads is a graphic novel collaboration between bestselling author Rainbow Rowell and award-winning author-illustrator Faith Erin Hicks. A tribute to autumn, midwestern United States pumpkin patches, and seasonal high school jobs, this lighthearted relationship comedy follows September and October co-workers and best friends Deja and Josiah as they embark on one final adventure during their last shift at their beloved pumpkin patch. There's some flirting and romance (outgoing Deja has dated a few fellow co-workers, while quieter Josiah has had one crush from afar), including one climactic kiss, as well as some mild punny insults and jokes ("dumb," "lame," "tacky," "gross," "stupid"), but it's a "clean YA" pick for younger middle and high schoolers.
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What's the story?
PUMPKINHEADS is a contemporary graphic novel about two high school seniors working their final shift together at a seasonal pumpkin patch. After three years of being autumnal besties and co-workers at DeKnock's World Famous Pumpkin Patch and Autumn Jamboree in Omaha, Nebraska, dedicated employee-of-the-month Josiah and free-spirited Deja face their last evening together. Josiah wants a quiet Halloween shift at the Succotash Hut, but Deja has a plan for the two of them to work in a new location, eat all of their favorite snacks, and encourage "Josie" to finally speak to the co-worker he's crushed on for three years, "The Fudge Girl." But the night proves to be much more of a bonding adventure than even Deja anticipated.
Is it any good?
This is an utterly charming and heartwarming graphic novel about two lovable besties and the power of friendship, small adventures, and pumpkin patches. Rowell and Hicks are both fabulous storytellers, and the medium works beautifully to capture the spirit of Deja and Josie's last night as pumpkin patch employees. From the opening-page map to the familiar station names (Succotash Hut, Fudge Shoppe, Pie Palace, Kettle Corn Kettle) to the deliciously detailed snack foods (readers should know they will be hungry upon finishing), this is the sort of sweet-as-pie story that middle schoolers and moms alike will adore.
Although the primary plotline revolves around Deja persuading Josiah to talk to Marcy, the Fudge Shoppe worker he's been smitten with for three years, the story goes far beyond that to explore the main characters' personalities, flaws, strengths, and experiences (he's cautious, she's impetuous; he's never been in a relationship, she's had several). The story also explores how bittersweet senior year is, this season walking a fine line between adolescence and adulthood when every big event is the "last" before everything changes. But along with the underlying substantive themes, there's a whole lot of fun. There's even a rowdy billy goat on the loose that the protagonists tend to ignore as they snack and make their way across the pumpkin patch. Pumpkinheads is sure to win over even the most jaded of readers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the themes in Pumpkinheads. How are seniors uniquely vulnerable to their final milestones as high school students before graduation?
Why is it notable to have an attractive, plus-sized, bisexual teen girl of color as one of the protagonists? Why is representation important in literature? Why do readers benefit from both windows to other cultures/identities and mirrors of their own in books?
Discuss the friendship-to-romance theme. Who are some of your favorite friends-to-love-interests couples?
- Author: Rainbow Rowell
- Illustrator: Faith Erin Hicks
- Genre: Graphic Novel
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Horses and Farm Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: First Second
- Publication date: August 27, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 209
- Available on: Paperback, Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: April 23, 2020
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