When Lottie and her class are given an end of term project to complete she doesn’t hold much hope of winning, not with Penelope Pembleton-Puce's parents employing experts to do the work for their daughter. But Lottie’s grandpa is determined to help Lottie get to the top of the class. With the help of her grandma’s guide to growing exceedingly large vegetables, some rather unusual ingredients and a lot of love and heart, Lottie and grandpa have thirty four days to grow the biggest pumpkin ever…
I loved this read for so many reasons. It is big on heart and tackles some really big issues that children have to deal with. Most notably Lottie’s family situation. Lottie has a difficult home-life living with her mum and grandpa. Although it is never stated, it seems that her mum is struggling with depression that may have been triggered after Lottie’s father went to the shops and never came back. Mum has neglected her childcare duties and spends her days glued to her phone, staying inside and eating chocolate. Lottie’s seventy-two year old grandpa is grieving the loss of his wife two years earlier and he needs looking after. With the adults struggling it is left to Lottie to keep the house running and she does a fine job. School is not going well though, she often turns up late looking a bit dishevelled and class bully Penelope Pembleton-Puce enjoys making Lottie’s life horrible in any way that she can - all the caring for others at home is leaving Lottie little time for her to look after herself. Lottie is looking after everyone else but no-one is looking after Lottie. There are lots of children who find themselves in situations not dissimilar to Lottie’s, caring for a relative and doing above and beyond what could be expected of any child. It is great that young carers can see themselves represented in a book.
The read highlights the importance of having a purpose in life, big or small. Lottie’s project is the catalyst for helping her grandpa get back to his old self again. The project gives him a purpose, and rather than grieve for the loss of his wife he takes inspiration from her gardening abilities to help Lottie grow a huge pumpkin. Lottie’s project has positive effects on her mum too - by the end of the book mum’s addiction to gaming on her phone is getting better and she even goes outside. Just as the pumpkin grows with love and support from Lottie, Lottie grows with the love and support from an adult - her grandpa - that she has been so desperately missing.
The book is illustrated by Sarah Jennings and her charming artwork is a delight. Even chapter and page numbers are given the artistic treatment.
This is an uplifting and heart-warming tale that tackles some of the big issues that young children face. Full of imagination and fun, Lottie shows what can be can be achieved with a bit of love and support.
Recommended for 6+.