Author Harvests Experiences, Imagination for Giant Pumpkin

At first glance, one might naturally think that author Melanie Heuiser Hill identifies with 12-year-old Rose in Giant Pumpkin Suite (2017). After all, Rose sprouted up seven inches in eight months, finding her head and shoulders above her twin brother, Thomas.

“I am six feet tall, but more importantly for the story, I was 5’10” at the age of 10,” says Hill, who lived part of her growing up years in Maple Grove. “Fifth grade. I towered over everyone—all kids and many adults. It was not fun. I love being tall now," she says. "So, yes—I identify with Rose’s struggle with her too-fast growth.”

Hill finds relatable qualities and circumstance in several of her book’s characters. "I lived with the characters of Giant Pumpkin Suite for a good long while—they became friends for me, and they each contain a piece of me or someone in my life, I think,” Hill says.

The author hopes readers will also relate to lessons offered up throughout the book’s pages. “At one point, Mr. Pickering and Rose have a discussion on the back stoop about 'doing things badly.’ This is one thing I hope kids get out of this story—trying new things, even when you’re terrible at it, is an excellent way to spend your time. It can feed your imagination and soul in ways you cannot predict,” says Hill, who graduated from Osseo Senior High in 1987.

Writers are often told to “write what you know,” and Hill’s experiences in Maple Grove are a part of her creative avenues. “Perhaps, because we moved when I was in junior high, those tween to early teen years feel pretty clear in my memory, and most of that time I was in Maple Grove,” she says. “When you write for kids, a visceral memory of your childhood is important, and place is certainly a part of those memories.”

As an adult, Hill met a fellow who grew pumpkins for competitions. “He was nurturing one pumpkin [in a tiny urban backyard in North Minneapolis] to compete at local weigh-offs against growers, who had fields of giant pumpkins. I immediately knew this had potential for a children’s book—the all or nothing theme, the underdog feel, etc.” Hill also realized that she needed other elements in a book, “and so the Bach Cello Suites, the neighborhood, Charlotte’s Web, tap dancing, and all the other plot points came in to grow alongside the pumpkin.”

Hill completed most of the book’s draft  while working on her master’s degree in fine arts from Hamline University. “It’s a long process for me, this novel writing. I wish I could speed it up, but the second novel, which I’m working on now, crawls and sprawls along, as well. I am [daily] learning to trust the process, she says.”

In the meantime, Hill’s picture book,  Around the Table That Grandad Built (2019, Candlewick Press), features a family gathered with friends and neighbors to share a meal around a very special table. “There’s a diverse array of dishes and faces—and lots of kid involvement,” Hill says. “It’s a celebration of the bounty of family and friendship.”

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