I’ll admit right off the bat that the second challenge I attempted for the Ultimate Reading Challenge threw me for a loop. The challenge involved a story-telling medium I had frequently used in my youth, but which I had then abandoned and hesitated to pick up ever since. My challenge was to read a graphic novel.
When I started transitioning from early readers to chapter books, graphic novels were the perfect bridge. There was minimal text and plenty of colourful pictures, and their generally short length meant that I could whip through one in under an hour. My favourite graphic novelist by far during that time was Raina Telgemeier. I’d read Smile and Sisters over and over and over, so much so that the spine of Sisters came loose from its binding. It’s hard to put my finger on why her books in particular were the ones I turned to so often. Maybe it was the family-oriented plot, maybe it was my ability to relate to Raina. Either way, these books were the standard I referred to whenever I stood in front of the graphic novel section at the library debating what to pick. Not long thereafter, however, I turned my attention to the significantly larger chapter book section and didn’t look back. Reading something with pictures suddenly seemed babyish. By the time I realized how wrong my eight-year-old self had been, 90% of the graphic novels available to me were about supernatural superheroes, a genre I didn’t enjoy very much unless it involved one of my favourite Marvel characters. The other 10% were either a) horror, b) a fighting-against-the-odds love story, c) an adaptation of a classic novel like The Great Gatsby, or d) teenagers doing dumb stuff which puts them in increasingly dangerous situations. I didn’t want these! I wanted as close to an adult Sisters as I could get. (I know that my judgement is clouded by my personal preferences and the range of the selection available to me. There’s nothing wrong with any of the types of graphic novels listed above- they’re just not my cup of tea! I’m open to suggestions if you have any favourites.) Then along came the book I’d waited so long for (and with it the subject of today’s blog post): Pumpkinheads.
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell with illustrations by Faith Erin Hicks:
Every September and October, seasonal best friends Deja and Josiah (Josie) don flannel shirts and denim overalls as employees of their local pumpkin patch. They’ve worked there together since freshmen year, but now it’s senior year and their last night at the Patch. With so much left to see and do before they hang up their overalls for good, Deja and Josie decide to abandon their post and make their last night the best one ever.
This is exactly what I was looking for! No mutant cyborgs wrecking havoc on cities, no tense life-or-death confrontations. Just two besties romping around a pumpkin patch in search of food and adventure. I’d been curious about this book for a while, so I’m pleased that it more than met my expectations! There’s emotion and comedy and hints (not too much) of romance, not to mention the beautiful artwork of Faith Erin Hicks. I could relate to this teenager-centered plot (I’m very much a Josie!), and the idea of letting loose on the last night of a job and doing whatever I wanted certainly appealed to me. And how could I forget the Fall/Harvest vibes? Even though it’s May, this book had me seriously craving pumpkin cookies, cornmazes, apple-picking, and tractor rides through pumpkin patches. Pumpkinheads is the perfect read to get you hyped up for Fall! As I’d expected, I was able to finish this book in about 45 minutes, but I’d be lying if I said that each of those 45 minutes weren’t minutes well spent. Pumpkinheads has the same tone of Sisters in that it focuses more on individual relationships than reactions to a situation. These are the types of books that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside! I haven’t found many graphic novels I’ve liked, but Pumpkinheads gets all five stars.
I’m grateful to the Ultimate Reading Challenge for giving me the opportunity to branch back into a medium I’d disconnected from. I’ll still choose books over graphic novels if given the choice, but the ratios of each may become slightly more balanced in future. Good thing I’ve figured out where to find the present-day relationship-oriented graphic novels I’ve been looking for! Next stop, the Children’s Section.