October 21, 2013
Rotten Pumpkin by David M. Schwartz
A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices
by David M. Schwartz
Early on young scientists learn terms like decomposers. They even learn that decomposers help break down plants and dead animals and return their various component parts back to the soil for reuse. This is the first book that I’ve found that details how this process works as well as the wide variety of animals and molds that play a part, and David Schwartz gives each a voice in his narrative.
The first player that readers “hear” from is the pumpkin himself, a fun, fabulous jack-o-lantern. Once Halloween is over, he is moved back to the garden where mice, squirrels, and slugs, all voices in this story, pay him a visit. Slime trails left behind by the slugs provide footing for the spores of the first molds.
Some readers may be tempted to write the various molds off as nothing but nasty, disgusting messes but listen and they will tell you about the useful jobs that they do, curing illness (Penicillium) and make bread rise (yeast). They also break the flesh of the pumpkin down so that it is available as food for some of the smaller creatures in the story, like the sow bugs.
This is an excellent choice for any unit that touches on decomposition and the web of life. I have to appreciate the fact that Schwartz respects his readers enough to give them big names to play with, such as Penicillium, instead of trying to dumb things down.