Scholastic Question & Answer Series: Do Bears Sleep All Winter? By Melvin & Gilda Berger. Illustrated by Roberto Osti. Scholastic. $6.99.
The Biggest Pumpkin Ever. By Steven Kroll. Illustrated by Jeni Bassett. Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. $4.99.
Pumpkin Heads! By Wendell Minor. Scholastic. $6.99.
The weather is still warm in much of the Northern Hemisphere, but as the calendar moves inexorably toward colder times, kids can look ahead with these three paperback reissues, which offer facts and fun for fall and beyond.
Do Bears Sleep All Winter? was originally published in 2001. Like all the entries in the excellent Scholastic Question and Answer Series, it offers 48 pages of a Q&A format in which Melvin and Gilda Berger explain a series of basic scientific facts. This volume is an unusually narrowly focused entry in the series, though: kids will have to be especially interested in bears to want to read this much information about them. It’s likely that most children will be interested in the answer to the title question: yes, bears do sleep all winter, although they sometimes are awakened by noise or other disturbances. And the Bergers’ followup explanation that bears do not truly hibernate – that term indicates a much deeper winter sleep, from which it is almost impossible to awaken an animal – is also of general interest. But much of the book is filled with details that only ursine enthusiasts are likely to want to learn about: how quickly cubs grow, how long they stay with their mothers, whether bears can run downhill without falling, how long ago the first bears appeared on Earth, where Asiatic black bears spend most of their time, etc. For those who do have a strong interest in these large mammals, the Bergers’ book – nicely illustrated by Roberto Osti – can help welcome in colder weather.
For many children, the thing that most clearly indicates autumn and the coming of winter is the approach of Halloween. Two short paperback reprints are packed with seasonal enjoyment. Steven Kroll’s The Biggest Pumpkin Ever, originally published in 1984, is a charming story of two mice who fall in love with the same pumpkin – for very different reasons. One of them waters and cares for it so it will grow large enough to win the local pumpkin-growing contest. The other waters and cares for it so it will grow big enough to make a wonderful jack-o’-lantern. With all the watering and all the care, the pumpkin grows to be enormous – and when the two mice figure out what has happened, they work together to make both their visions for the pumpkin come true. It’s a cute story, amusingly illustrated by Jeni Bassett, and the page of foil pumpkin stickers included in the book is a nice bonus.
Speaking of pumpkin visions: Pumpkin Heads! is chock full of them, as Wendell Minor imagines a huge variety of carved pumpkins being displayed in all sorts of settings. Originally published in 2000, Minor’s book features only a few words, in large and easy-to-read type – plus illustrations of a cowboy pumpkin, cat pumpkin, surprised pumpkin, balloon pumpkin, snowman pumpkin, scarecrow pumpkin, and many more. These are drawings, not photos, but they may very well give kids some ideas about making their own unique jack-o’-lanterns as the weather turns chillier and Halloween beckons.