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The Picture Book Buzz

The Pie That Molly Grew - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Most people are familiar with the nursery rhyme "The House That Jack Built" and the numbing repetitiveness as it cumulatively builds to the end.

While Sue Heavenrich modeled her rhyme scheme after that poem, using it as a great format for highlighting a plant's life cycle, she brilliantly modified it to create a lilting look at the fun adventure of growing your own pumpkin.

Book cover - a girl peers over a giant pumpkin as a bee flies past.

The Pie That Molly Grew

Author: Sue Heavenrich

Illustrator: Chamisa Kellogg

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press (2023)

Ages: 5-8



Gardening, pumpkins, plant life cycle, rhyming, and community.


Using "The House That Jack Built" rhyme scheme and beginning with the planting of a single seed, the journey of bringing a pumpkin to harvest comes to life for young readers. Under Molly's watchful eye and care, each stage of growth--from the seed to the sprout to the leaves to the final fruit on the vine--is showcased. And at the end, Molly's lovely pumpkin is turned into a delicious pie for one and all to share in a celebration of gratitude. All from the seed that Molly sowed. Back matter includes fun facts about pumpkins, the important pollinators who help them grow, as well as a pumpkin pie recipe.

Opening Lines:

This is the seed

that Molly sowed.

This is the Sprout that pushed through the earth

to grow from the seed that Molly sowed.

What I LOVED about this book:

I love the way Chamisa Kellogg depicted the passage of time from the planting of the seed to the sprout making an appearance - by playing with the slight changing of seasons (the growth of leaves on the tree and the bird building a nest) outside the window and the boredom of waiting for days and days. But the excitement on Molly's face at seeing the sprout more than makes up for the wait. And I love the curlicue on the first letter of each stanza, like a pumpkin tendril.

Internal spread - on left three vinegttes of birl and brother waiting for a seed to sprout. On right, girl reacted excitedly to the tiny sprout.

Text © Sue Heavenrich, 2023. Image © Chamisa Kellogg, 2023.

Rather than building on and merely repeating that second stanza, Sue beautifully plays with the language and rhyming couplets to create a fun stanza; one that allowed Chamisa to break and curve it to model the mounding soil around the pumpkin sprout. And creating a wonderful refrain that continues as the pumpkin grows.

Internal spread - on left, girl holds a sprout over a hole. O n right sprout is planted and network of roots is developing down into the soil..

Text © Sue Heavenrich, 2023. Image © Chamisa Kellogg, 2023.

These are the ROOTS that reach down and branch out

to anchor the plant

that began as a sprout

to grow from the seed that Molly sowed.

Be sure to watch the additional storyline, set in the tree, as a hint or guide to the passage of time and the garden's connectivity to the rest of nature. For instance, by the time the sprout is ready to plant, the bird's eggs have hatched. The gorgeous illustrations capture a love of nature and the intertwining and connection of plants and animals; the worms helping roots, bees pollinating the flowers, As well as the process of the development of Molly's prize pumpkin.

After exploring the huge leaves and photosynthesis, Sue highlights "The VINE that rambles and grows, /

a spiky green lifeline through which water flows/" from the roots to the leaves and then "then back to the roots that reach down and branch out..." This slight tweak, followed by an exchange of a couplet on the blossoms, for a focus on the bees and little pumpkins moves the story along and reduces some of the repetition. Keeping the focus on the botany involved in the plant's growth. A point highlighted by Chamisa's wonderful illustration of Molly keeping a notebook on her plant's growth!

Internal spread - on left, the plant blossoms and then the vine wanders across the gutter to where Molly is taking notes on two growing pumpkins.

Text © Sue Heavenrich, 2023. Image © Chamisa Kellogg, 2023.

These are the BEES that carry the pollen

from flower to flower

till petals have fallen,

revealing small fruits on the vine green and strong

that serves as a lifeline to move things along—

from the leaves to the fruits to the roots that branch out,

Given the title, I'm pretty sure you can guess where the ending is heading, when Molly holds a pumpkin almost wider than her arms can reach around. And you're right there is ultimately a pie, but the final pages and stanzas are full of a few surprises. The amazing stanzas and delightful illustrations combine to wrap up both the science and the story. A fun note on the history and growing of pumpkins is followed by a pie recipe and a wonderful tribute to the six bees which pumpkin plants rely upon. This is a terrific book exploring and explaining plant growth for young kids and showing the connections between plants, animals, and our communities.


Collage of 4 of the 10 ways to make recyled pots for plants.
Collage of some of the 36 pumpkin crafts.

- have fun and try making a couple of upcycled planters to grow some plants - carrots, tomatoes, or even your own pumpkin. Draw or take notes on the progress of your plant(s), just like Molly.

- if you can't grow a pumpkin, here's some pumpkins you can make.

- check out Chamisa's coloring sheets at Sleeping Bear Press.

If you missed the interview with Sue Heavenrich on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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