Carving a pumpkin for Halloween is a beloved tradition, but all too soon, that gourd falls prey to a host of scary, gross and unbelievably fascinating creatures.
Leave it to Schwartz and Kuhn (What in the Wild: Mysteries of Nature Concealed and Revealed, 2010) to combine their considerable talents again to create a page-turning title on decomposition. The author boldly chooses to give voice to the various decomposers that visit old Jack. Readers hear from animals, mold, fungi, rot, bacteria and, periodically, from the pumpkin itself. The photographs zoom in for close-ups of the characters in this slightly horrific performance. Fuzzy Penicillium, slime mold and spore cases “that look like tiny red balloons” all gruesomely impress. Readers learn more than just how slugs, flies, worms and sow bugs feast on the former jack-o’-lantern. Time and weather play their parts, too. One seed waits as “the animals came, the molds grew, the pumpkin collapsed into a heap of goo….” When the spring rains come, it begins “pushing roots downward and stem upward. If all goes well, my flowers will form fruit.” A glossary follows, further describing the unfamiliar terms introduced in the text, and a page devoted to “Classroom Investigations” suggests ways to engage in the scientific method and conduct experiments with pumpkins.
An ecology lesson, an inspiration for readers’ theater—or a compelling read all on its own. (Nonfiction. 5-12)