Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Book Review - How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?

William and I have read every book in Cynthia Rylant's High Rise Private Eyes series that is so terrifically illustrated by G. Brian Karas. When we learned he had illustrated the recently released book, How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?, we knew we had to have it. We have read and re-read it several times already, and as a result, William is happily planning a pumpkin experiment of his own.

Suffice it to say that I was so pleased with this book that I purchased a second copy for my teaching collection. Margaret McNamara's book provides a wonderful reminder of the importance of not judging by appearances, while also serving as a lesson in skip counting by 2's, 5's and 10's.

As the book begins, we learn that Charlie likes school, his teacher, and his friends, but does not like lining up to go into school. You see, Charlie is the smallest in his class, and the class lines up each day by height, from "tallest to smallest or smallest to tallest," highlighting each day Charlie's limited stature. One morning Charlie arrives to find three pumpkins on Mr. Tiffin's desk, one small, one medium and one large.
"How many seeds in a pumpkin?" Mr. Tiffin asked the class. "Does anybody know?"
Nobody knew, but everybody had ideas.
The students make guesses and Mr. Tiffin writes them on the board. The next day the students begin the task of removing the seeds from the pumpkins. The spread that shows children digging their hands into the pumpkins to remove the slimy seeds affectionately and aptly captures this experience on the faces of the children. My favorite is the girl with her arm in the pumpkin and tongue out of her mouth. That would be me--loving the experience but still finding something disgusting about it! Children reading this will definitely relate.

On the next double page spread readers will find three empty pumpkins, three full bowls and twenty messy hands (10 pairs)! Mr. Tiffin dries the seeds and the next day they are placed in bags for students to count. Four students count the seeds from the big pumpkin by 2's, five students count the seeds from the medium pumpkin by 5's, and one student (Charlie, of course) counts the seeds from the small pumpkin by 10's. Once the counts are totaled and the pumpkin with the most seeds revealed, Mr. Tiffin leads the class through a series of observations in an effort to see if students can discover some clues about how many seeds might be in a pumpkin.

Even though this is a worthy counting title, there is a great deal more math in it that can be explored. Lining up by size provides an opportunity to explore seriation and ordinal numbers, guessing the number of seeds provides an opportunity to explore estimation, there is mention of even and odd numbers, the images of the pumpkin seeds in arrays provides an opportunity to talk about multiplication and division (the five's page has a remainder of one), and students can talk about the concepts of greater than and less than while comparing the number of seeds in each pumpkin.

At the end of the book there is a page of Pumpkin facts. After reading them it was fun to realize that I had learned some new things about these icons of fall.

All-in-all, I love the story, love the art with it's autumn hues, and am thrilled with the possibilities for instruction. I highly recommend it.

Book: How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?
Author: Margaret McNamara
Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Publication Date: July 10, 2007
Pages: 40
Grades: 1-3
ISBN-10: 0375840141
ISBN-13: 978-0375840142
Source of Book: Copy purchased at

Other Reviews:

the excelsior file
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast


  1. Thanks for the review--I will go look for this one.


  2. Tricia - can you tell me approximately how long it might take to read this aloud to a class? I know it says 40 pages.. but I am not good at judging things like that. I have my first subbing assignment on Thursday and would love to hunt down this book to have on hand in case of extra time...