What better way to get into the spirit of Halloween than with a tale to send a bit of a shiver through your youngsters’ bones while spreading a smile on their faces.
The Perfect Pumpkin Pie tells the tale of the ill-tempered Mr. Wilkerson who dies one Halloween night just as he is about to enjoy a piece of his wife’s perfect pumpkin pie. Declaring that he loves a perfect pie, Mr. Wilkerson impatiently accepts a piece of pie from Mrs. Wilkerson with a, “about time!” Mrs. Wilkerson in turn points out that after they pass on there will be, “no more pie.” The ever stubborn Mr. Wilkerson, however, retorts with, “Then I ain’t goin’!” Yet just as he raises his fork to take a bite of pie, he suddenly freezes and drops dead. Mrs. Wilkerson buries his body that night in the pumpkin patch, puts the house up for sale the next day and moves away. The reader is then told that no one of course ever heard from Mr. Wilkerson again since he was after all, dead, or was he?
The story then jumps ahead to another Halloween night with the new owners of the old Wilkerson house, Jack and his Grandmother, about to enjoy their own freshly baked pumpkin pie. Before the pie has had a chance to cool though Jack spots something rising out of the pumpkin patch and it soon becomes apparent it’s a ghost making it way towards the house. Of course it’s the ghost of Mr. Wilkerson who loudly makes his intentions known as he chants out the demand,
“Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkin pie!
I must have one before I die.
It must be round and brown as toast,
Or I’ll haunt this house a hungry ghost.
It must be perfect or a ghost I’ll stay
And haunt this house and never, every go awaaaaaaay!
Jack’s grandmother seemingly unfazed with hands on hips calmly tells the ghost “Oh stop all that moaning.” “Sit down and have some pie.” Being a ghost has not changed Mr. Wilkerson one bit as he is just as demanding and cantankerous as he was in life. He declares that Grandma’s pie is just not up to snuff and will not do at all. Further more, he threatens to stick around until he does get his perfect pumpkin pie. Then with much commotion the ghost whirls and twirls. Pots fall from the cupboard, dishes crash to the floor, the screen door bangs and the ghost vanishes. Jack runs to the window and with relief says,” he’s gone.” Grandma knows better though and says, “He’ll be back,” and with that sets out to show the ghost just what a perfect pumpkin pie she can bake. The story proceeds from here with several more appearances by Mr. Wilkerson’s ghost. At each visit Grandma presents him with another pumpkin pie in hopes that he will approve of one of them and thus be rid of the ornery ghost once and for all. The above pumpkin pie rhyme is repeated each time the ghost reappears reminding us of his demand for the perfect pie. Similarly too, Mr. Wilkerson’s ghost makes the same dramatic exit each time with dishes crashing to the floor and the screen door banging just before he vanishes. The repetition in the comings and goings of the ghost lends to the story’s progression to a final solution as at each visit Grandma presents him with a new pie based on his specifications of what is needed for a perfect pumpkin pie.
Though a Halloween story, there is a lot of humor, particularly from Grandma, to make the story fun rather than scary. The illustrations are large with swirling, scribbling type lines that show much movement on behalf of the ghost. The movements in the lines also projects the humor found in the ghost character as he is depicted as a dramatic old wind bag rather than a scary ghost. The story makes for a particularly good read aloud for a storytime group as listeners quickly become familiar with the pumpkin pie rhyme and have fun chanting along throughout the story. It works just as well for a one on one read too, but a fair warning to parents; this story will be well enjoyed as you’ll be hearing your little ones repeating its rhyme well past Halloween!
“Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkin pie!”
Check the WRL catalog for The Perfect Pumpkin Pie