Magic Tree House
Junie B. Jones
★ “Good friends are hard to find,” says Sophie to her best buddy, Bernice. This must be so, because Bernice is a farmers’ market squash. The fruit is supposed to be for supper, but all bets are off when Sophie gives it a face and a name. The two friends are inseparable, visiting the library and other squash at the market, practicing somersaults on the hill…and every night Sophie gives Bernice a baby bottle and tucks her into a cradle. (“Well, we did hope she’d love vegetables,” Sophie’s mother observes.) Countless stories exist about girls’ exploits with their dolls or stuffed animals. Few, if any, feature healthy produce. But the tale of Sophie and Bernice is charming and even suspenseful as the title character reluctantly realizes that her squash will not last forever. Miller’s sweet and lively story is perfectly matched by Wilsdorf’s expert ink and watercolor illustrations. With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children, and their parents will be happy to read it to them often.–Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY – School Library Journal
★ Who says children don’t love vegetables? Sophie certainly does, as her best friend is a yellow squash whom she’s named Bernice. Even though Bernice is supposed to be dinner, Sophie draws a smiling face on her and convinces two very tolerant parents to let her keep the gourd as a playmate. The two have tea parties, somersault down the hill, go to library story time, and have sleepovers. As the summer wanes, Mom is always exploring new recipes for cooking Bernice before she rots away altogether. “Don’t listen, Bernice!” Sophie cries in terror, shielding her friend. In the fall a blotchy Bernice seems softer and “her somersaults lacked their usual style,” so Sophie plants her in the garden. In a perfect blend of story and art, the humorous watercolor-and-ink illustrations are bursting with color and energy on every page, replete with patterns in swirls, stripes, floral, and polka dots appearing on clothing, curtains, and upholstery. Endpapers depict the pigtailed Sophie with her jaunty red bows in constant motion—running, tossing, flipping, cuddling, and balancing the squash. This is a paean to love and friendship, which can come in all species, shapes, and sizes. – Booklist
★ Debut author Miller takes the idea of playing with one’s food to another level in this sensitive but funny story about a girl’s affection for a squash. When Sophie selects a butternut squash at the farmer’s market, her parents assume they will be having it for dinner. Sophie, however, quashes that plan by adopting the vegetable as her new best friend and naming her Bernice (“It was just the right size to hold in her arms…. Just the right size to love”). Despite gentle prodding to relinquish Bernice before she rots, Sophie brings her deteriorating pal to the library and somersaults with her in the yard. Miller’s easygoing storytelling taps into the familiar scenario of children making fierce attachments to favorite objects; Sophie is passionate without being bratty, her parents are pragmatic but not harsh, and Sophie eventually makes new friends, including Bernice’s offspring. Wilsdorf’s (Five Funny Bunnies) winsome ink-and-watercolor scenes adeptly capture both Sophie’s many moods (“Don’t listen, Bernice!” she scowls when her mother suggests baking the squash with marshmallows) and her unruly pigtails. Ages 3–7. Author’s agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Aug.) – Publishers Weekly
★ Miller’s debut, in which a little girl affectionately adopts a butternut squash, is a winner.
After her parents buy that squash for dinner at the farmers’ market, Sophie commandeers it, giving it a face with markers. It proves just the right size to hold, bounce on her knee and love. “I call her Bernice,” Sophie says. “I’ll call for a pizza,” says her mother. Throughout the fall, Sophie coddles her veggie, attending library storytimes, visiting other squash at the farmers market and practicing somersaults near the garden. Her parents do their gentle best to suggest alternatives for the moldering squash, from a trip to the toy store to a donation to the food pantry. Sophie will have none of it. “Bernice will last forever.” When even Sophie notices changes in Bernice, she asks a farmer what keeps a squash healthy. Her unique interpretation of his advice (“Fresh air. Good, clean dirt. A little love”) yields, next spring and summer, delightful twin surprises. Wilsdorf’s amusing ink-and-watercolor illustrations alternate between full-bleed spreads and spots. From her bouncy braids to her red shoes, Sophie’s vibrant, determined nature shines forth charmingly.
This season-spanning turn with high-spirited Sophie offers endearing lessons about nurture and regeneration. (Picture book. 3-8) – Kirkus Reviews