THE PUMPKIN WAR by Cathleen Young

THE PUMPKIN WAR

Age Range: 8 - 12
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A 12-year-old girl hopes to turn last year’s pumpkin-boat–race loss into a win, but revenge might ruin a friendship forever.

Billie and Sam’s friendship ended last summer when Sam beat her in Madeline Island’s annual pumpkin race. According to Billie, Sam cheated, and this summer he’ll pay. From pumpkin planting to race-day harvest, Billie’s bitterness grows. First she refuses to accept his help, then she ignores him completely. Billie’s grandmother admonishes her for this shameful behavior, but it takes a more serious event to lift Billie to forgiveness. The plot offers an appealing premise, and the story’s division into four summer-month sections makes for a quick read. Unfortunately, the cultural milieu comes across as unrooted. Billie’s “half Ojibwe from [her] mom’s side” with “red hair and green eyes” from her father’s Irish side, which is completely believable, and some Ojibwe words (italicized) and cultural touches are included. However, such phrases as “running wild” and “wild dancing” read as woefully unaware, and attempts at cultural scenes either surface skim in a manner reminiscent of diversity box-checking or are described through a naïve awe that reads as a white gaze. Additionally, attributing the Blackfoot word “Sinopa” as an Ojibwe name and incorrectly writing that “nitsidigo’i” is an Ojibwe word for “kneeldown bread” when both the word and the bread are Diné (a culturally and linguistically unrelated people 1,600-plus miles away) amplify readers’ sense of the author’s unfamiliarity with Native peoples.

A promising plot that plays Indian; readers looking for #ownvoices should paddle their pumpkins on. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 21st, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5247-6733-4
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2019




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