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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | agriculture

Bookstorm™: Giant Pumpkin Suite

Giant Pumpkin SuiteCompetition is a part of young people’s lives: art, sports, music, dance, science, cup-stacking … many children spend a good part of their day practicing, learning, and striving to do their best. Giant Pumpkin Suite is about two types of competitions, a Bach Cello Suites Competition and a giant pumpkin growing competition. Rose and Thomas Brutigan are twelve-year-old twins … but their personalities and interests are quite different. It’s a book set within a neighborhood that pulls together when a serious accident changes the trajectory of their summer. We meet so many interesting people, children and adults, in this book. It’s full of hold-your-breath plot turns. 

The book is written at a level for 5th to 8th grade readers (and adults) and it has many ties to popular culture, mathematics, gardening, and the nature of competition. It’s an excellent choice for a book club discussion.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. You’ll find books, articles, websites, and videos for a variety of tastes and interests.  




You’ll find more information about Melanie Heuiser Hill on her website.


Johann Sebastian Bach. Rose Brutigan focuses on an upcoming Bach Suites Competition by practicing … a lot. Who was Bach and why is his music still with us 260 years after his death? Resources include books and videos of our best cellists playing the Bach Cello Suites.

The Cello. More about the instrument Rose plays, with a number of videos you can share with your class or book club.

Charlotte’s Web. This book is a favorite of Rose and her neighbor Jane. Charlotte’s Web provides a major turning point in Giant Pumpkin Suite. Learn more about the book and its author, E.B. White.

Giant Pumpkins. Thomas and his neighbors work together to grow a giant pumpkin. Today, these pumpkins (not grown for eating) can way over 2,000 pounds—more than one ton. Books, videos, and articles share stories and how-tos for growing giant pumpkins competitively.

Japanese Tea Ceremony. Mrs. Kiyo shares this beautiful ceremony with Rose. The Bookstorm suggests a video for your students to watch.

Mathematics and Bach. Are you aware that Bach used math and physics when creating his compositions? Your students can delve into this fascinating aspect of the composer!

Movie Musicals. The music from musicals of the 1940s and 1950s is very important to Jane and Mrs. Lukashenko—they sing and tap dance at the least suggestion. We provide three suggestions for watching these movies.

Music Competition (Fiction). There are a number of excellent books about young people preparing for, and playing in, music competitions! 

Music in Middle Grade Books. And more novels in which music is an important part of the plot. 

Neighborhood Books. We suggest books in which the people and places of a neighborhood are integral to the plot of a book. Perhaps you’ll find your favorites.

Tap Dancing. Who can resist a good tap dance? Another strong plot point, we suggest books and videos to share with your students.

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your ideas and any other books you’d add to this Bookstorm™.


Tucked In for the Winter

Sleep Tight Farm

Sleep Tight Farm by Eugenie Doyle illus by Becca Stadtlander Chronicle Books ISBN 9781452129013

Every detail in this book is heartwarming. You know that the author and the illustrator and the book’s publishing team put a lot of love and respect into bringing this story to readers.

From the moment you see the opening end papers, a forest and pasture ablaze with fall color, until you discover the closing end papers, that same forest with the snowy skeletons of those trees, you sense the care within.

It’s a story of a farm family who are very busy tucking their farm in for the winter. Unless you live on a farm, you likely have no idea there’s so much to do! Harvesting, putting food by, protecting the fields, preparing the hoop house, keeping the beehives safe from mice and wind … from big chores to small, this family’s love for their farm wraps around the reader like a fluffy quilt.

The book will open eyes for children who don’t know about farm life, but it also neatly tucks the details around us, giving us a satisfying look at a family who raise a variety of vegetables for themselves, winter markets, and their own farmstand. You sense the family’s deep level of caring for the land, the birds and animals, and the farm that sustains them.

“Dad cuts back the raspberries before wind and snow can crack the canes. … The promise of late summer’s plump fruit lies in roots tucked underground. Good night, raspberries, resting below.” So fine.

I was drawn to this book by the cover and illustrations. It’s those finely detailed, draw-the-reader-into-the-world-of-the-book, gently instructing paintings that complete the spell of Sleep Tight Farm.  Those details include the icy whiteness of the book’s title on the cover and the informal friendliness of the body text. The farm kitchen is fascinating with stacked wood, a collection of painted pottery, rugs on the floor, and a fire in the pot-bellied stove.

Sleep Tight Farm

When “We board up chinks in the chicken coop and set a timer to give the hens the light they need to lay eggs all winter” even the straw that lines the chicken coop and the feed for those chickens are included in the details. We learn a great deal about the farm by observation. How are eggs collected from the coop? Mom is pounding nails to “board up chinks.” There’s a variety of hens and a beautiful rooster. The family is wearing boots for their work. There’s a fence around the chicken yard. A chicken-strutting ramp leads from the coop to the ground. “Good night, chickens, snug in your coop.” 

After reading this book, I feel calmer about the winter to come. And I want to visit this farm. Warm thanks to author Eugenie Doyle (whose family operates The Last Resort Farm in Vermont) and illustrator Becca Stadtlander and the team at Chronicle Books for creating this respectful, loving, and informative book. What a joy to read! It’s a keeper.


Gifted: Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin afterword by Will Allen Readers to Eaters, 2013 Introduction My second passion in life after books and reading is sustainable agriculture and organic farming. There are a few good books for children on this topic, but I’m always delighted […]