Prather’s Pick: Counting pumpkin seeds
October 14, 2014
"How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?" was written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. It's an older book (copyright 2007) but no matter — it's a great read. This book has lots of information about pumpkins and a message for readers besides.
According to her brief biography, author McNamara has written 12 books in the Robin Hill School series. One of them, "The Pumpkin Patch," received a gold Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Award. I'm not sure if this week's book is one of the series, but the setting is Mr. Tiffin's first grade classroom where he teaches ten students.
When he lines up the students (to enter the school) by size — from tallest to smallest or smallest to tallest — Charlie is the smallest. He's also the leading character in the story.
One morning when Charlie gets to school, he notices three bright orange pumpkins on Mr. Tiffin's desk. They are three different sizes — big, medium, and small. Mr. Tiffin asks his students, "How many seeds are in a pumpkin?"
The students don't know the answer, but they guess. Robert, the tallest boy in the class, guesses that the biggest pumpkin has the most seeds. He thinks there are a million. Elinor thinks that the medium pumpkin has 500, and Anna guesses that the small pumpkin has 21.
There are other guesses, too, and Mr. Tiffin writes them on the chalkboard.
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The only way to find out is to open up the pumpkins and count the seeds so that's what the students do the very next day. They gather up newspapers, trash bags, and bowls and spoons. The kids all put on their smocks, because Mr. Tiffin says that removing the seeds is a messy job. Pretty soon three bowls, one for each pumpkin, are full of seeds. Their thinking homework for that night is to figure out a way to count the seeds. Mr. Tiffin's job is to dry all of the pumpkin seeds.
The next day, the students have ideas for counting the seeds, but the class decides to go along with Molly's idea — to count the seeds by twos, fives and tens. The kids divide into clubs named for the method of counting, the Twos Club, the Fives Club, and the Tens Club. Robert tries to make a contest out of the counting; he tells Charlie that his small pumpkin doesn't have many seeds. The class reminds Robert that it isn't a contest.
Pretty soon the table is covered with pumpkin seeds, divided according to the counting groups. When the students figure the totals, making Anna's brain hurt, the results are surprising. The class learns something about small pumpkins, and there is an implied message about small kids, too.
At the end of the book, Mr. Tiffin gives his class (and readers) clues as to how to tell whether a pumpkin has lots of seeds. There's a page of "Charlie's Pumpkin Facts," too. What a great book!
"How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?" is published by Schwartz & Wade Books. It costs about $14.99 in hardcover. However, you may be able to find the book in softcover now. It can also be found in the Children's Room at the Moffat County Library.