Praise for The Biggest Pumpkin!

From Booklist

Young Gavin is determined to grow “the biggest pumpkin!” He recruits help from the garden-shop owner, who gives him the perfect seeds to start with; his green-thumbed neighbor, who helps him build a tiny greenhouse around the seedling when it first pokes out of the ground; the mailman, who shows him how to hand-pollinate the flowers; his neighbor Colby, who helps pick the biggest of the three baby pumpkins to focus on; his aunt Daisy, who shares her secret fertilizer recipe; and finally his uncle Peter, who hoists the 501-pound pumpkin onto the bed of his pickup with a forklift. The cut-paper illustrations add plenty of whimsical texture to Gavin’s big quest, particularly the gargantuan pumpkin he finally enters in the contest. Spunky Gavin is determined from the very start, and his enthusiasm, demonstrated in the repeated refrain of “I’m growing the biggest pumpkin!” is nicely coupled with factual information about pumpkin cultivation. An educational and entertaining harvest-time read-aloud. — Annie Miller

Praise for Chicks!

From Kirkus Reviews

Step by step, a family acquires chicks and watches them grow into chickens old enough to produce eggs and  chicks themselves.

Even today, not all chickens are raised on farms. Some, like the ones in this book, are thriving in the backyards of homes in areas where zoning permits. From the family’s trip to the farm to purchase three chicks through early indoor nurturing to building outdoor shelter and then nest boxes, the story proceeds chronologically. The very simple text includes plenty of repetition to support beginning readers as well as words specific to the activity: brooder and coop, beaks and wattles, chirp and cluck. The farmer is African-American, and the mom, dad, girl and boy pictured may well be Latino—a welcome departure from the norm in agricultural stories. The chickens are realistically drawn. The illustrations support the text, offering plentiful clues. This entry, at the Step 1 level in the long-running Step into Reading series, reflects the current demand for engaging informational reading at all levels. It more than meets that need, standing out for its clear description of the process and its subtle multicultural appeal.

Whether these fowl are feathered friends or future food, they are nourishing. (Informational early reader. 4-7)

Praise for The Giant Hug:

From Booklist (via

Pre S – Gr. 2. Even if you take Woody Guthrie’s “Mail Myself to You” literally, it’s difficult to express the depth and breadth of affection through postal-service channels. But Owen, a young pig, is determined to send his grandmother “a GIANT hug” for her birthday. So he hugs the postal clerk and offers these instructions: “Please make the hug just as giant when you pass it on to the mailman.” So begins a transcontinental hug relay. Gorbachev’s cast of animal characters, drawn with a Richard Scarry-like sense of whimsy, are well chosen to emphasize the relevant personality traits, with the jolly bear airplane captain giving a hearty embrace, and the porcupine truck driver doing the job with prickly reluctance. In a world increasingly reliant on cyber communication, this story may rapidly lose its relevance. For the time being, though, it’s ideal for revving up kids’ enthusiasm for post-office field trips–and postal workers certainly deserve the good press. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association

From Children’s Bookpage,  review by Deborah Hopkinson

New author Sandra Horning didn’t have to search far to find the inspiration for The Giant Hug, her first children’s book. She grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, where her father spent many years working for the city post office. It’s easy to imagine that Horning learned a lot from her postman dad, because her delightful book perfectly captures a child’s fascination with how the post office actually works.

The tale begins when Owen’s mom asks him what he’d like to send his grandmother for her birthday. Owen doesn’t hesitate one bit.  “A GIANT hug,” the young pig declares, spreading his arms wide.

Drawing a picture of a hug won’t do. So Owen and his mom head to the post office, where Owen tells Mr. Nevin that he wants to send his grandmother a real hug for her birthday. “Well, we don’t normally send hugs,” Mr. Nevin replies, “but I suppose we could give it a try.”

Little Owen opens his arms wide and gives Mr. Nevin a giant hug, along with a request to make it just as giant when Mr. Nevin passes it on. As the story continues, Owen’s hug gets passed on by animals who help speed the mail along the way, from goat to rabbit to porcupine—and even to a bear named Captain Johnson, pilot of the mail airplane.

At last the final delivery is in the arms of Shelly, the duck, who opens her arms wide and gives Granny a giant hug. But, wait. The story’s not quite over yet. For the best part of getting a special package in the mail is, of course, sending back a reply. Young readers will be sure to giggle at Granny’s response.

The Giant Hug is graced by warm, humorous illustrations by Russian-born artist Valeri Gorbachev. This child-friendly book would make a great “special delivery” present for grandchildren and grandparents alike.

From Publisher’s Weekly

In this comical, sweet-natured picture book, a perky piglet named Owen finds an inventive way to send love long distance when he arranges to mail a “giant hug” cross-country to his granny. Not content to draw a picture of himself hugging Granny, Owen announces to his mother “I want to send a real hug. I’ll give the mailman a hug and ask him to send it to Granny.” Luckily, Owen finds a host of supportive if slightly incredulous postal personnel willing to help. From the local mail sorter Ms. Porter, a lamb, to the ursine pilot who flies the mail closer to its far-away destination, each employee provides a link in the hug-passing chain. And better yet, the delivery team gets a goodwill boost as each embraces the hugging spirit (one hug even precipitates a date). When Granny finally receives her special mail, she sends something equally interesting back to Owen. In her picture-book debut Horning serves up a cheerful and heartwarming scenario sure to capture the imagination of little ones and those who dote on them. Her kind, respectful animal characters have just the right touch of credibility, making this perfectly pleasant world seem possible. Gorbachev’s (Silly and Sillier) ink-and-watercolor artwork charms, featuring a menagerie of friendly, helpful critters which sometimes suggest an enlarged version of Richard Scarry’s Busytown. In an amusing scene, Gorbachev makes even a mail-truck-driving porcupine huggable. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

From Marilyn Courtot – Children’s Literature

What could be sweeter than a grandchild giving a grandparent a big hug? Little Owen loves his granny and that is what he wants to send for her birthday, but how can he do that we he lives so far away. Owen’s solution is clever. He goes to the post office and asks the postal clerk if he can send a hug. While the request is unusual, the postal worker says that he will give it a try. The story is then set up for a series of amusing situations where the hug is transferred from one postal worker to another. It goes to the mail sorter, to the driver who collects the mail where it is again transferred to another driver who takes it to the airport and hugs the pilot. The mail moves yet again and so does the hug until it finally reaches its destination. Granny is delighted and in return she decides to send her grandson a great big kiss. The closing page shows Owen with a big kiss imprinted on his little face. So readers can only assume that the same series of events have taken place. The drawings are entertaining as all of the participants are an assortment of anthropomorphic animals. Kids and grandparents will enjoy reading this story together. It would work as well for a birthday as for Valentine’s Day. Postal workers watch out—this request may come to you; and unfortunately in today’s society it may not be taken in the light and sweet vein it is intended. 2005, Alfred A Knopf Young Readers/Random House, Ages 4 to 8.

For more reviews, see Goodreads.