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Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill
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Giant Pumpkin Suite

by Melanie Heuiser Hill

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As twins go, Rose and Thomas could not be any different. Thomas is short, happy-go-lucky, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of kid. Rose, on the other hand, is tall, intense, highly intelligent, and focused. Her passion is the cello and she practices obsessively hoping to win Bach Cello Suites Contest to study with her idol, Maestro Waldenstein. These opposite twins are 12 and are about to experience a summer which will change their lives forever.

Their next-door neighbor, Mr. Pickering, receives a curiousity from his brother-in-law. A pumpkin seed which has the potential to grow into enormity. Thomas is intrigued and decides to help Mr. Pickering with the seed's nurturing and growth. Rose is only focused on her music. That is, until THE accident.

Rose's dream is halted, if not dead. She must regain the use of her hand with therapy and determination. And, while her healing is undergoing its timely due, she begins to help Thomas. It is also a time of reflection and renewal...connecting with friends, neighbors, and family which Rose have let fall by the wayside. Literally, it seems as if it takes a community to nurture the pumpkin patch. Rose now sees much more than a vegetable, it brings to her a form of commeraderie, neighborliness, and fun!

Giant Pumpkin Suite is a sweet story about fulfilling one's dreams, even if those dreams don't take the path you anticipated. Rose and Thomas encounter both serendipitous and orchestrated changes which lead to a fulfillment they never dreamed possible. They connect with a cast of characters, both young and old, who boost them up when things are looking bleak. Everyone has a story...and it is up to them to gather the knowledge gleaned from those life experiences to help them get to where they ought to be going.

Although the 'accident' that spurs all this self-reflection is obviously about to happen, with it foreboding doom (and we're yelling at Rose 'don't do it!"), it is the surprising and gentle way it is dealt with that has the reader relishing the story. Dreams, as we initially hope they would come true, do not always meet our expectations... it is how we handle the outcome that defines our maturity and sense of self.

Thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewers, Candlewick Press, Jamie Tan, and Melanie Heuiser Hill for this ARC. I give this book 4 1/2 stars. ( )
  jackiewark | Oct 16, 2017 |
In this story for middle grade readers, twelve-year-old Rose Brautigan is a driven cello player and something of a prodigy. Her goal is to win the Bach Cello Suites Competition. She has a fraternal twin, Thomas, but he is much more relaxed and fun-loving than Rose, who thinks she must do everything perfectly.

Thomas spends a lot of time helping his older neighbor, Otis Pickering, and as the story begins, Mr. Pickering has fallen down his basement stairs. Thomas finds him, and calls the ambulance as well as alerting all the neighbors. (This Minnesota neighborhood as depicted by the author is a veritable United Nations, with people from all countries and colors and even a token gay couple. Furthermore, everyone acts like one big happy family. It seems a bit contrived.)

At the time he fell, Mr. Pickering was trying to water a giant pumpkin seed, and Thomas agrees to take over the job of caring for it while Mr. Pickering is incapacitated with his broken bones. Thomas manages to get a reluctant Rose to help, and pretty soon the whole neighborhood is contributing to the effort in one way or another.

As the summer passes, the pumpkin grows larger, eventually reaching a staggering 1,365 pounds, and they enter it into the Minnesota State Fair. [In the Acknowledgments section, the author writes about the amazing size of these real-life giant pumpkins. As of 2016, one specimen of the Cucurbita maxima species grew to over 2,500 pounds.]

But a serious accident has also taken place, threatening to change Rose’s life forever.

Discussion: This book broaches on being over-the-top diverse, and features perhaps too many "issues" with which the characters struggle.

Some of the characters, especially the “bad” ones, are a bit too villainous, just as some of the “good” characters seemed unrealistically kind, talented, and helpful. (Or maybe I’m just jaded.). In any event, Rose, the self-absorbed main character, was the most unappealing of the “good” set, which made it hard to be as sympathetic to her as one might otherwise have been.

In addition, I couldn’t help wondering throughout the whole story why Rose and Thomas thought the potential State Fair prize money for the pumpkin would be theirs, rather than Mr. Pickering’s.

Nevertheless, there is a lot to like about this book, and readers will learn a great deal about cellos, Bach, pumpkins, and even Japanese tea ceremonies and art of Kintsugi.

Evaluation: This novel offers a lot to think about, and there is nice tension and pacing regarding several of the plotlines, such as the fraught-with-peril care and growth of the pumpkin. ( )
  nbmars | Sep 28, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This story is told from the point of view of Rose, an extraordinarily tall twelve year old. She has a twin brother, Thomas, who has yet to have a growth spurt of his own so he is much smaller than she. Not only is Rose tall for her age, she is also very smart and gifted in music and math. In the beginning of the book, Rose is practicing for a cello competition and, while her musical abilities played a large part in the book, the real story was how Rose grew and changed and became more involved with other people in her neighborhood.
At first, she was a very difficult character for me to like. She was too mature for her age, completely self-absorbed, and much too focused on her music. She was so disconnected from everyone outside her own family (and even they seemed to accept that she needed to practice the cello for hours every day). However, as the plot progressed and Rose began helping her neighbor and her brother grow a giant pumpkin plant, she began to develop more relationships (and that made her more human)
This was a very sweet story with well-developed characters and plenty of events to keep the storyline moving along. ( )
  cyndiea | Sep 24, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Twelve year old, cello prodigy, Rose Brutigan has one goal: to win the Bach Cello Suites Competition. Her dedication to practice, maturity beyond her years, and need for perfection doesn't leave much time for her to be a kid (something her twin broken, Thomas, has little difficulty doing). As she prepares for the competition, Rose struggles with insecurities -- wondering if she will ever be good enough to study with the great Maestro. When tragedy suddenly strikes, all of Rose's plans begin to crumble around her. Gone is the summer of practicing and perfecting, leaving Rose with ample time on her hand. And what is she to do? Help her brother and neighbor grow and giant pumpkin of course.

At its heart, this books is a story of the importance of relationships and friendships. From friends to neighbors to teachers to family, this book covers it all. Particularly heartwarming are the intergenerational relationships that Rose forms with the people in her neighborhood. Each character formed and integral part of the vibrant neighborhood that comes together to grow a pumpkin. Rose gains a newfound understanding for friendship and learns a different lesson from each person she interacts with.

One of the strongest aspects of Hill's writing was her characterization. Each character felt like in individual, necessary to the story and more importantly, necessary for rose to heal. I loved getting to know each neighbor throughout the book and was especially fond of Mrs. Kiyo. Though this story was predictable at times, it was still a heartwarming read. On a journey of self-discovery, Rose is relatable for any young girl that has ever felt feel like they don't fit in their own skin. ( )
  MelTorq | Sep 19, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Twelve year old Rose loves Bach and pushes herself to perfect her cello performances. She's also a math whiz, she's very sweet, writes herself motivational notes, and she has a twin brother who exclaims things like "great idea!", as twelve year-olds do. I abandoned this book at page 25 and I had to push myself to get there, as I have a really low tolerance for perfect, sweet fictional children, so it wasn't a good match with me. ( )
  mstrust | Sep 12, 2017 |
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