Inspiring Young Readers
Jason Banks and the Pumpkin of Doom by Gillian Cross and illustrated by Sarah Horne
Let’s not mince our words – Jason Banks is a bully. And he loves it too.
“Everyone in his class was afraid of him. He pinched the girls and stuck chewing gum in their hair. He hit boys and stole their lunch money. He laughed at kids who found school work hard – and he made clever kids do his homework for him.”
So, not surprisingly, no-one even tries to be Jason’s friend – that is until a small, pale red-haired girl with a pointed nose comes to the school. Millie, that’s her name, doesn’t listen to all the other children warning her about Jason but when she tries to be nice to him, he pushes her over and laughs at her. No-one, it seems, will change this boy and his horrible attitude.
Well, maybe no person can alter him but what about a vegetable? Strange things are afoot the next day when Jason leaves the house to discover a pumpkin plonked right in the middle of the garden path and pinned to it is a sign – The Pumpkin of Doom!
Jason’s scoffing comes to an abrupt halt when he tries to kick the pumpkin off the path and almost breaks his toes. It’s been filled with rocks and now Jason’s hopping around hoping no-one sees him and makes fun of him.
On its second appearance the Pumpkin of Doom is hiding a boxing glove on a spring that leaps out and gives him a biff on the nose…….then the third time…..Ah, no. I’m not telling, you need to read it for yourself.
Jason can’t figure out what’s going on. He also can’t understand why, every time the pumpkin appears with a new trick the only person passing by is Millie. And why is she being so nice to him – giving him clean shirts and not telling anyone of his humiliation?
Then, as if things could get more weird, Jason’s mom gets a letter inviting Jason to tea with Millie and her family after school. Before he can do anything about it, the invitation is accepted and he’s packed off in Millie’s dad’s car. And – surprise, surprise – Millie lives on a farm where they grow ….pumpkins!
So Jason gets the picture – Millie was behind it all the time, getting her own back for his mean actions when they first met. But Millie isn’t doing all this just for revenge but because she wants to show Jason that he can have friends and that it’s better than being known just as a bully.
Oh yes, and pumpkins aren’t just things that can be used to make into practical jokes. As Jason discovers at the end, they make fabulous pies as well.
Gillian Cross’ story has been illustrated by Sarah Horne, a London-based artist who, the publicity says, ‘enjoys creating funky, inky illustration’ – and that seems to perfect description of what she’s produced here.
Guided for readers of 8 and over, this is a great example of how a very serious issue can also be made into something that is not just worthy but great fun too.