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Mark Herder
The Big Squash
Mark Herder, author
All Adrianne wants is her father’s attention. All her father wants is fame and riches. All the mayor wants is votes. And all the people want is jobs. All of them have their hopes pinned on the Big Squash, a 13-foot vegetable that sprouts almost overnight in Adrianne’ s garden. If the Guinness Book of Records declares the Big Squash to be the biggest in the world, the publicity will draw a new fertilizer company to the town, which will brings jobs for the people, votes for the major, and fame and riches for Adrianne’s father. And maybe, just maybe, Adrianne will get her father’s attention. No one suspects, however, that the Big Squash might have a mind of its own.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 6 out of 10
Prose: 4 out of 10
Character/Execution: 6 out of 10
Overall: 5.75 out of 10


Plot: Herder’s fast-paced middle grade novel documents the Thompson family’s rapid rise to fame in their small, quirky Kentucky hometown, when daughter Adrianne plants a magically-growing squash seed. When the squash begins to grow, chaotic events snowball, and things go from bad to worse for Adrianne, her brother Joey, their conniving father and exhausted mother, and their entire community.

Prose: Herder authentically captures the voice of a girl suffering bullying and insecurity. The diction in this novel leans toward a country twang, with old-fashioned, ultimately charming, turns of phrase. The author maintains a gratifying balance between humor and emotion.

Originality: With it's magical premise, The Big Squash takes an original approach to exploring how relationships disintegrate when fame and fortune come into play, as well as the worry and confusion of puberty. Readers will relate and enjoy the story of a lonely girl struggling to determine what she really wants and whom she really values.

Character Development: Herder sensitively conveys the pain and uncertainty that can accompany childhood and early adolescence. Protagonist Adrianne’s desperate attempts to be noticed and appreciated by her father, are poignant. The eccentric residents of Mellsville and their claims to fame are mentioned often in passing, lending the town its own unique character.

Date Submitted: August 21, 2018