Everybody Needs a Friend by Pat Zietlow Miller

Everybody needs a friend.

For some kids, friends are their brothers or sisters, neighborhood children or school classmates.

For other kids, friends take the shape of blankets or bunnies or pet rocks.

My youngest daughter, Sonia, latched on to a butternut squash. She was quite small at the time, sitting in the front of a grocery cart as we shopped. I put a squash in the cart, and she picked it up and rocked it like a baby. When we got home, she gave it a face.

Watching Sonia and her squash baby was undeniably cute. But it was also a little strange. I mean, I didn’t see anyone else’s kid cradling produce.

But now that my picture book Sophie’s Squash is out in the world, I’m learning that there are more kids like Sonia than I thought.

Before the book was available, I was a little worried. It was my first book. And I’d heard picture books needed some hook that authors could use for classroom visits with little kids. Something to keep them happily occupied.

A craft. A game. A song.

I had no idea what to do. It seems funny now, but I just didn’t see the hook.

Then it was time for my book launch party. I knew there would be kids there. And, I knew they’d need something to do. So I made coloring sheets featuring art from the book. I ordered temporary tattoos of Sophie and her squash, Bernice.

And then, at the last minute, I bought a bunch of butternut squash and some Sharpie markers. I thought the kids might want to make their own squash friend.

Did they ever.

And then, I started hearing from people who were reading the book to their children. They told me how their child now wanted a squash for Christmas or now carried a squash around. I saw pictures.

So now, when I speak to kids, I bring squash and let them get creative.

Random House has helped parents and teachers and librarians out, creating a guide for various ways you can use Sophie’s Squash with groups of children. It offers discussion topics, ways to work with local farmers’ markets and a template to make a paper squash friend.

Are you a school librarian or teacher? If you use the ideas in your class, you could win a classroom set of Sophie’s Squash books. (Which would make me very happy!)

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Do a Sophie-related craft with your students.

  • Link a blog post with photos from your squash-decorating session back to this post. Or …

  • Email a photo of your activity to the Nerdy Book Club email.

Sonia and I can’t wait to see what you do!



Pat Zietlow Miller knew she wanted to be a writer ever since her seventh-grade English teacher read her paper about square-dancing skirts out loud in class and said: “This is the first time anything a student has written has given me chills.” (Thanks, Mrs. Mueller! You rock!)

Pat started out as a newspaper reporter and wrote about everything from dartball and deer-hunting to diets and decoupage. Then, she joined an insurance company and edited its newsletter and magazine.

Now, she writes insurance information by day and children’s books by night. Her first picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH, was illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf and published Aug. 6, 2013 by Schwartz & Wade, a division of Random House.

You can find Pat online at http://patzietlowmiller.com and on Twitter as @PatZMiller. 

You can download activity sheets for Sophie’s Squash here!

Sophie’s Squash Activity Sheet and Sophie’s Squash Idea Sheet