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STEM Education for the Very Young: It's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall Children's Book Review and Activities

I've written over 50 articles about children's literature for library, preschool, or home settings. I have a BA in English Lit from BYU.

It's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall and illustrated by Shari Halpern

It's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall and illustrated by Shari Halpern

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Story Summary: Pumpkins Growing In the Garden, Ready for Halloween

Are you looking for a children's book selection for Halloween that isn't too scary that will be appropriate for preschoolers? It's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall and illustrated by Shari Halpern may be just the book you are looking for. Two characters, a girl and a boy, introduce their favorite holiday by telling the reader how they are growing pumpkins for Halloween.

"All summer long my brother and I get ready for our favorite holiday."

This appealing and artful book is is the perfect blend of summer gardening turned to fall harvest and Halloween celebration complete with Jack-o'-lanterns, costumes, and trick-or-treats. This book stays away from the scary side of Halloween and avoids frightening images, but it is still a Halloween book through and through. This makes it a great selection for toddlers and younger preschoolers.

Author Zoe Hall's text is simple and straightforward, but the book's vivid illustrations by Shari Halpern make it a real winner. Anyone who has ever enjoyed growing their own garden or even anyone who has visited a farm's harvest festival will appreciate the brilliant orange and verdant green colors used to depict the children's growing garden. The journey of a pumpkin growing from seeds planted in neat rows to brilliant yellow flowers watered by a gentle rain while the children stand in their garden in rain slickers under an umbrella tell the story of pumpkins growing in a pumpkin patch. All the way to the kitchen table, where faces drawn on the pumpkins are safely carved by parents into smiling Jack O' Lanterns.

Halpern's illustrations pay homage to the venerable collage art of Eric Carle, and though her technique is similar, her style is her very own.

This book is a pleasant celebration of Halloween, explaining to very young children who may not remember last year's night of Halloween fun, just how harmless little seeds can grown into pumpkins and be transformed into jack-o-lanterns. Another benefit of this story is that while the children look forward to Halloween, candy is not featured anywhere in the book. For those who want to avoid sugary holiday treats, this book talks about Halloween without jumping on the sweets bandwagon.

This book is an excellent lesson on the science of growing pumpkins. I recommend it for your STEM (pun included, how could I resist?) science-oriented Halloween unit or a story time focused on pumpkins.

Pumpkin Vines copyright Carolyn Augustine

Pumpkin Vines copyright Carolyn Augustine

Pumpkin Time shows how a pumpkin grows from seeds in the garden into fully-ripe pumpkin gourds. A pumpkin blossom getting ready to bloom is shown here.

Pumpkin Time shows how a pumpkin grows from seeds in the garden into fully-ripe pumpkin gourds. A pumpkin blossom getting ready to bloom is shown here.

It's Pumpkin Time Activities

Insert this story into a Pumpkin-themed unit for October or Halloween, or as part of a not-too-scary children's story hour. Here are some suggested activities or crafts you can use for part of a special holiday-celebration.

Easy Activities

Roast Your Own Pumpkin Seeds. Pumpkin seeds are readily obtainable from any old pumpkin during the fall, just cut the pumpkin open and scrape out the seeds. You can do this with a group of children, allowing them to take turns scooping out the slimy mess of seeds and pumpkin pulp. Separate the seeds and wash them in a small-holed strainer, then place them on a greased cookie sheet and salt liberally. Bake them in an oven at a low temp and allow them to cool before serving to your preschoolers.

What Floats? An enjoyable preschool-aged science activity to fill a tub of water and have a number of objects on hand. Will your objects sink or float. You could have Halloween or harvest-themed objects like mini-pumpkins, an apple, a piece of wrapped candy, a rubber ducky, small toys, and so on. Never leave young children alone around water!

Decorating Mini Pumpkins. Use small pumpkin-shaped gourds, typically available at grocery stores and where available, at farmer's markets, as a basis for a three-dimensional decorated pumpkin. You don't have to cut these open, just provide pre-cut foam shapes for the eyes, nose and mouth, and have parents help children to glue their Jack O' Lanterns together, with a liberal application of elmer's glue. It's helpful if you have a place to allow these to dry.

Jack-O'-Lantern Celebration. Decorate your library or preschool classroom in a fall-harvest theme, but invite children and their parents to bring pre-cut Jack-O' Lanterns with a small flashlight to illuminate them. You can issue prizes, or not, depending on your whim, for most creative, silliest, happiest, and spookiest Jack-O-Lanterns, and most atraditional.

Play-dough Pumpkins. Using orange-colored prepurchased Playdough, or homemade playdough liberally colored with red and yellow food coloring, make you own pumpkin shapes by showing children how to roll their dough into a ball, and then use a plastic butterknife, or the flat edge of a tongue depresser or popsicle stick to create the lines in the pumpkins. A touch of green playdough for a stem would also add a nice touch.

Seed and Bean Pictures. Using a line-art drawing of a pumpkin printed on cardstock as your base, glue seeds and beans onto the picture to form a collage effect. Please supervise younger children who will be doing this project as small seeds and beans can be a safety hazard to them.

Confetti Pumpkin Collage. Another option for making a collage pumpkin picture is to glue squares of different shades of orange tissue paper onto a pumpkin picture base. This project will take some patience and coordination, so don't expect younger children to do this one without a little help. This is a great project for the over 5 age group.

Pumpkin seeds are easy to find in October when everyone is carving pumpkins. Pumpkin seeds are edible and very healthy, and make a fun science-oriented activity for preschool co-ops, homeschool groups, and family night.

Pumpkin seeds are easy to find in October when everyone is carving pumpkins. Pumpkin seeds are edible and very healthy, and make a fun science-oriented activity for preschool co-ops, homeschool groups, and family night.

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Related Books for a Pumpkin-Themed Story Hour

Here are some companion books geared to young preschoolers for a not-too-scary Halloween themed story hour or preschool curriculum that focuses on pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, and Halloween celebrations.

Too Many Pumpkins By Linda White

Too Many Pumpkins By Linda White

Too Many Pumpkins by Megan White is a character-based story about a lady whose pumpkin patch is an unwanted nuisance, until she finds a way to share her harvest bounty with the people of her town. Please read my review of this story by clicking on the title link.

Five Little Pumpkins by Iris Van Rynbach. This book based on a finger play shows 5 pumpkins acting out a popular pumpkin-themed rhyme for Halloween.

Spooky, Spooky, Spooky

Spooky, Spooky, Spooky

Spooky, Spooky, Spooky by Cathy MacLennan. Rhyming glow-in-the-dark text accompanies the repeated phrase "spooky, spooky, spooky!" and shows images of bats, spiders, snails, and cats...only to reveal smiling children dressed up in costumes that repeat these images. At the end of the book, all of the "spooky" things are banished away and only the costumed children are left. My four-year old son really enjoys reading this book aloud with me.

Boo to You by Lois Ehlert

Boo to You by Lois Ehlert

Boo to You! by Lois Ehlert features cute little mice and fall gourds on midnight-black backgrounds. The text is simple and not at all scary. It's hard to go wrong with this artist and author, whose collage art is featured in 38 books, including her most famous title, Color Zoo.

The Bumpy Little Pumpkin

The Bumpy Little Pumpkin

The Bumpy Little Pumpkin by Margery Cuyler and Will Hillenbrand shares elements of a fairy tale and realistic fiction. Little Nell has two big sisters who don't think she is capable of selecting an appropriate pumpkin for making a Halloween Jack-O-Lantern. But with the help of some talking animal friends she selects a perfect, bumpy little pumpkin that they carve together. At the end of the day, she brings her new creation inside, to the surprise of her older Big sisters. This story has especially appealing artwork and is published in an oversized format that will be easy to read in a storytime gathering.

Big Pumpkin

Big Pumpkin

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman and S.D. Schindler tells the story of a witch who wants to make pumpkin pie for Halloween. But after planting a seed and watching it grow until the witching hour is upon her, she soon realizes that she has a big problem--the pumpkin has grown so large that she can't move it by herself. Her friends the ghost, the vampire, and the mummy all show up claiming they are bigger and stronger than the witch, but they can't move the pumpkin by themselves. Then a tiny bat shows up with a new idea...working together! When everyone works as a team, the BIG pumpkin goes flying, and lands right in front of the witch's house.

© 2010 Carolyn Augustine


Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on September 19, 2010:

Thanks bayoulady, those are great ideas. My 4 year-old son particularly enjoys going to the store with me and weighing produce on the scales. This might be another component to your estimation idea. Yours are great ideas too and I'm so glad you mentioned them here. Making pumpkin pies would be a good segue into a unit on picky eating or nutritional science, too.

bayoulady from Northern Louisiana,USA on September 16, 2010:

Hi wannabe, I like your book review and activities!I loved doing my pumpkin unit when I was teaching!(just retired) Great suggestions here, many of which I used for my first and second graders. I would always bake 2 pumpkin pies, because at the end of the unit the kids were more than eager to try it! We also did "what floats?"(a pumpkin does) and estimated then determined the circumference of five or six pumpkins. Such fun! This book would have been a great addition to the unit!

marisuewrites from USA on September 12, 2010:

I'll be writing more, mind is full of things; finding time and energy is the hard part. for us all! travel safely, I hope your move will be more smooth than ours...we are terrible movers. Murphy's Law Rules over us. haha

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on September 11, 2010:

Thanks marisue, I've been working at it a while, but we have baby #4 on the way at the end of the month and a cross-country move as well, so my focus is on that for now. We are relocating to Iowa for a job, but thrilled for the experience, even though the timing is so inconvenient. I had lost track of you too. I'm looking forward to reading more of your recent Hubs!

marisuewrites from USA on September 11, 2010:

Hi wannabwestern, what a lot of work you've done here! Thanks so much, the teachers amongst us should love and follow you!! good to see you again, how are you doing?

Hello, hello, from London, UK on September 09, 2010:

You made a wonderful selection. I never heard of them and thank you for the introduction.

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