Title: Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden
Author: George Levenson
Publisher: Tricycle Press
Grade Level: 1-4
Extension Objectives: Students will explore plant life cycles while learning how to grow pumpkins.
HOW THE STORY GROWS
Pumpkin Circle is a stunningly visual, poetic, and informative ride through the life cycle of a pumpkin. Based on a video with the same name, the photographic images and text show that science and poetry can be a powerful and lively combination. The title captures the content perfectly ---by learning about the seed to seed story of a pumpkin, we also learn the archetypical seed to seed “story of a garden.”
Poetically speaking, the text is presented through playful font orientation, pure, predictable rhymes such as spring and cling, and more subtle assonance, with vowel and consonant sounds that resonate, such as the o sound echoing in open, bowl, and gold. The hybrid of scientific terms and poetic imagery presented on each page offer the reader multiple ways of understanding scientific phenomena and appreciating language simultaneously. Photographic details and linguistic metaphor work together seamlessly to present sometimes surprising comparisons; the seeds are described as “reaching down with silky roots, reaching up to dance.” The descriptions of pumpkins “dancing,” and flower buds as “angels” work because the photographs are accurate, showing minute detail. The cross section of soil shows a network of delicate roots and the “dancing” stem with trichomes, or plant hairs. The color palette of strong natural choices- blues, greens, and requisite orange-- enrich the clear biological message.
Teachers will appreciate the aptly chosen nonfiction features. The close ups---(trichomes on stem, 5 different types of seeds), scale comparisons (human hands on “huge green leaf”), and sequence boxes are each the perfect way to provide facts about the life cycle but also about how nonfiction authors convey different types of information. The book concludes with a page jam-packed with the details needed about “How to Grow Pumpkins,” including directions for how to write your name so that it grows into the pumpkin as pictured in the book.
THE BIOLOGICAL BACKSTORY
As kids we loved pumpkins not only for the holiday season they represented but also for their color and outlandish size that seems to appear nowhere else on that scale in a grocery store. The gargantuan size that pumpkins can reach (think of Cinderella’s coach) is a tribute to both genetics and optimal growing conditions both of which are illustrated in this book about the pumpkin lifecycle. The focus of this book is the flowering plant’s lifecycle but opportunities to delve more deeply into plant biology abound. Each page provides major concepts that on their own could be the focus of an entire plant biology lesson, such as: dicotyledonous (dicot) leaves, root architecture, trichomes (plant hairs), photosynthesis, leaf veination, floral attributes, pollination, senescence, and genetic diversity. The poetic text is accurate and will catalyze astute readers to search for the rich biology contained in the detailed photographs. A clear example is on the page with five sprouting pumpkin seeds. The text reads “This garden will be home to many pumpkin cousins-- One big pumpkin family, five varieties” while the image shows five seedlings that are morphologically distinct (differently shaped), illustrating genetic diversity within the pumpkin family. The following page reinforces this concept of heritable traits by showing that each of the seedlings originated from seeds that are structurally different.
For more information about the pumpkin patch featured in this book, visit this website: http://www.informeddemocracy.com/pumpkin/contents.html.