cover image The Magic Pumpkin

The Magic Pumpkin

Bill Martin, Jr.. Henry Holt & Company, $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-1134-0

A deceptively simple text with a lyrical rhythm describes a pear-shaped pumpkin growing in a garden, who unexpectedly whispers that he'll protect the yard from the ``foolies.'' Soon a face is carved, with an eerily grinning mouth ``which came to life / with candlelight, / to stay the mischief / of the night.'' Several creatures (among them fox, skunk and owl) pay scary visits, and then, at last, the foolies do arrive--and the pumpkin turns out to be the leader of their gang. ``With that / I snuffed his candlelight . . . / and the turncoat withered / out of sight.'' The foolies are foiled. And Lee's Halloween pumpkin rots away, smoke seeping out of his black eyes. While the story contains an air of mystery suited to the holiday, unclear portions will no doubt confuse young readers. Why is the pumpkin a rebel, and what purpose does this serve in the story? What is the reason for his sudden--and rather grisly--demise? Lee's fragile watercolors cast an appropriately haunting aura to the strange proceedings. Ages 4-7. (Oct.)