Pat Zietlow Miller, ‘Sophie,’ and a Squash for All Seasons

I love vegetables, much to my youngest son’s dismay. Love me some spinach, asparagus, all kinds of mushrooms. And especially now in Chicago’s deep, dark winter, I really love squash – as a creamy soup, or perhaps baked with a bit of brown sugar. That’s why Pat Zietlow Miller‘s picture book Sophie’s Squash (Schwartz & Wade, 2013) caught my eye. It tells the story of a girl who loves squash too. Only instead of letting her parents cook it up in a dish, Sophie makes a best friend of it. Bernice, as the squash is named, tags along with Sophie everywhere she goes. But as the weeks and months pass, Bernice begins looking a bit mushy. What will Sophie do?

Sophie’s Squash tells a charming story of friendship, with energetic illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf. It earned starred reviews from journals like Booklist, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly, as well as School Library Journal, which wrote in a delightful review, “With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children, and their parents will be happy to read it to them often.”

Question: Picture books cover a wide range of topics, from naptime to pirating the high seas to cows that type. So why a girl and her squash? Who and what were the inspirations for this story?

Pat Zietlow Miller: This book was inspired by my daughter, Sonia. She fell in love with a butternut squash when she was 3 or 4, and carried it around like a baby. As a beginning writer, you always hear that you should never base a story on something cute your child did. I generally think that’s a good rule, but it obviously did not apply here.

In my defense, I did add several plot points that did not really happen, so the story truly is fiction. But Sonia, who is 11 now, is very proud to have inspired the story.

Read more about Pat Zietlow Miller and interviews with other writers of great children’s books over at Kate Hannigan’s blog