Pumpkins Vs. Potatoes Bash

Oct 30, 2006 (Updated Oct 30, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Potatoes. Potatoes. Potatoes. Nice warm and fuzzy story line.


The Bottom Line: A pleasant, entertaining book complete with lesson and plenty of potatoes. It's potato propelled.

My name is Bob, and I’m in the second grade. Some of my classmates are Big Gloria, Tiny Tina, and Billy Thimble. Our teacher is Mr. Salami. He used to be a cowboy in Montana. He wants us to decorate the classroom with pumpkins and the lunchroom too for the Halloween party.
Big Gloria says pumpkins are useless. She prefers potatoes and wants to decorate the room with potatoes. Mr. Salami holds his ground. Big Gloria calls him a dictator.
We make the pumpkin decorations.
Mr. Salami says we can choose our own costumes to wear to the party.

Big Gloria gets an idea. We will have potatoes at the party after all. We meet at her house to make our costumes. Tiny Tina is a dish of mashed potatoes. I dress as a French fry. Billy is a whole box of French fries. Big Gloria dresses as a baked potato wrapped in foil.
We all recognize her so she is only foiling herself.
Gloria tells us we can win this contest of wills. Even a hollow win is good.

On Halloween morning we walk to school in our potato costumes. Other kids are dressed as potato people too. Mr. Salami is wearing a big pumpkin head. He likes our costumes.
We have a lot of fun at the party. We sing pumpkins songs and play pumpkin games like pin the pumpkin on the pumpkin and spin the pumpkin. Then we start goblin pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin slices, and salted pumpkin seeds.

Big Gloria tells Mr. Salami that it was the best party we ever had. Mr. Salami thanks her. He tells Gloria she has the right to think the potato is king. She agrees that the pumpkin is our friend. Then they shake hands.

Spudman’s Take

The above should have made you feel warm because it’s “summary.”

Big Bob and the Halloween Potatoes is a book in Scholastic’s Hello Reader! Series. It is a level 3 book targeted for students in grades one and two. Among books in the extensive series are “Ballerina Dreams”, Big Bob and the Magic Valentine’s Day Potato”, “A Girl Names Helen Keller”, “Monster Manners”, and “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bully”.

Preceding the title page is a letter addressed to family members by reading specialist. Francie Alexander. She points out the roles of sight words, phonic decoding, picture interpretation and text clues in the reading process. She shares a list of very comprehensive and useful activities for before, during, and after reading. I’ve seen such lists from so-called specialists that are gobbledygook. Alexander’s suggestions are sensible and pertinent.

This book has a fun factor near the top of the charts, the peak of the potato pile. Mr. Salami, the man of the unusual name, is an endearing, patient fellow with a smooth head that reminds me of someone I know well. He teaches the children in his second-grade class about holding one’s ground and accepting the opinions of others. In Spudland there are precious few male elementary school teachers outside of gym class. It’s refreshing here to find a male second-grade teacher who relates well with his students and even does all the cooking for the Halloween party.

There are a few difficult words in this book that may need explanation such as “dictator, radical, traditional,” but overall the word choices of the author are on the money. Almost every letter of the alphabet is used as an initial sound and there’s much repetition of sight words and words with common phonetic elements. If a young reader can't sound out a word like costume or thimble the first time around, he/she might get it on the second or third sighting.

The author’s use of first person narration works well with this story.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and sharing it with students and teachers at the learning center. Jill Pinkwater's graphics are wonderfully drawn and quite funny, from the students in their potato costumes to the rotund Mr. Salami in his pumpkin head and orange striped shirt that makes him look all the more pumpkinish. The picture on the last page of the small, dark hand shaking Mr. Salami’s much larger and lighter hand speaks volumes as the saying goes.

Looking for a great Halloween book?
This book may trigger some smiles. It may trigger some chuckles.
It may trigger some fun and some reading enjoyment.
It may trigger a motivation to read more.
It may trigger endorphins and the subsequent sense of well-being.
It could be a real trigger treat.

My Favorite Lines

“…we have a great love and respect for potatoes.”

“Potatoes are radical.”

“He stuck to his pumpkins this time.”

“There is more than one way to peel a potato.”

“He is pro-pumpkin….but we will be potatoes!’

“We were cool potatoes on our way to a party.”

48 pages
Dimensions 9 by 6 by .1 inches
Reading level – ages 4 to 8
175 sentences
1,609 words
Cover graphic – three kids in potato costumes

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