A little girl’s friendship with the two squash she grew in her garden (Bernice’s twin babies from Sophie’s Squash, 2013) gets in the way of a friendship with a real child when Sophie starts school.
Steven Green, a black boy, won’t leave Sophie, a white girl, alone. He sits by her, follows her, and makes all kinds of overtures of friendship. But she rebuffs him, stating that gourds Bonnie and Baxter are all the friends she needs. But readers will catch on pretty quickly that though Sophie seems like one huge bad attitude, with her scowly face, upturned nose, and snootiness, she is beginning to see the value of human friends—she just doesn’t know quite how to reach out to them. But “friends” doesn’t include Steven, especially after she has to put her squash in their winter bed and Steven accidentally tears Sophie’s picture of them. But then Marvin, Steven’s stuffed frog, and Sophie’s parents help the stubborn girl learn that “sometimes growing a friend just takes time.” Wilsdorf’s illustrations, done in watercolor and China ink, provide few clues to the question Miller generates in the text: why in the world is an upbeat and happy kid like Steven so intent on being friends with such a contrary girl? Roshni, seemingly South Asian, and Steven are the only two children of color in the class, and Ms. Park, their teacher, is black.
Sophie’s negativity is a definite turnoff, though Steven and his problem-solving are delightful. (Picture book. 4-8)