On a fine autumn day, what could be better than finding this lovely handwritten note in your mailbox?
You are cordially invited to a tea party in the back garden at dusk. ~ P
You probably know I’m always up for a tea party, and this one just happens to be doubly delightful. It’s being hosted by none other than the ever dapper Mr. Pumpkin, who really knows how to rock a waistcoat and top hat (I could never resist a top hat). Besides, taking tea at twilight is just too tempting. 🙂
Mr. Pumpkin’s Tea Party, a seasonally spooky story and counting book in one, was written and illustrated by Cincinnati-based author and illustrator Erin Barker, who first sketched a “pumpkin-head guy” having tea with a “skeleton person” for Inktober back in 2016.
They weren’t your average run-of-the-mill pumpkin and skeleton, though. They were dressed up as proper English gentlemen, and were saying things like, “I dare say,” and “Indeed.” Erin’s Instagram followers loved the sketch, and months later her editor suggested the characters should have their own book. So Erin developed a charming storyline inspired by her own love of hosting get-togethers with friends and good food.
Since the debonair Mr. Pumpkin’s tea party is held at dusk, it’s a rather posh affair, with everyone sporting fancy attire and bringing a little something.
As each guest arrives, the count-up begins. Mr. Pumpkin leads off with one cake, Sir Bones brings two jugs of cider, Lady Nightshade (a vampire donned in a tony flapper dress) brings three jars of jelly, and so on, all the way up to thirteen.
One cake rests on the table carefully laid.
And here are two jugs of cider Sir Bones has just made.
Lady Nightshade brings three jars of jelly to share.
While four swooping bats fly through the air.
In addition to delectable treats, six lamps lead the way, ten frogs serenade the guests, and Baron Laguna emerges from the depths with twelve singular balloons. After all, a party wouldn’t be a party without music, decoration, and just the right atmosphere.
The jaunty, rhyming text is a joy to read aloud, and hungry munchkins will be eager to see who’s arriving next with each page turn. They will enjoy meeting guests in swanky dinner jackets, bowties, and cummerbunds, and picking out the spiffy accessories that characterize each (Lord Wolfington’s pocket watch, Madam Silk’s sparkly jewels, Dr. Cairo’s monocle). There’s also a black cat wandering through the pages for an added element of fun seek-and-find.
This story is just right for picture book readers who like traditional Halloween characters (mummy, skeleton, witch, wolf, spider, swamp creature) but not the scariness. The witch who flies in with an apple pie is young and pretty, not the stereotypical old hag we expect to see working a broom, and Sir Bones is rounder and cuddlier than most skeleton types. Fashion flair rather than fright or fear.
As we see the guests gathered around the festive table chatting, noshing, and raising their teacups, we’re assured that everyone’s having “a frightful good time.”
Erin’s ink and watercolor illustrations, rendered primarily in rich blue, green, purple and rusty jewel tones, are evocative and atmospheric, a perfect backdrop for this spirited October tale. The rosy sunset reflects the beauty of the season, and you can just about feel the twilight chill in the air as the party winds down.
It was difficult picking a favorite illo — perhaps a toss-up between Madam Silk and her seven truffles, the eight variously patterned teacups, or Lord Wolfington and his five scones.
Speaking of which, we could not, I repeat, we could not, resist making Lord Wolfington’s Cranberry Orange Scones. The video made it look like a simple enough recipe and apparently scones are Erin’s favorite tea time treat.
Orange and cranberry are always a good combination, and when you add butter and heavy whipping cream, it’s bound to be divine. Everyone here loved the scones — totally scrummy and a perfect way to extend one’s enjoyment of the book. You can find the printed recipe at the blue manatee press blog.
For now, whet your appetite with this video:
So, what are you waiting for? Slip into your nattiest threads, pack your best manners, and join the others at Mr. Pumpkin’s Tea Party (a tad ghoulish but oh-so-elegant)!
MR. PUMPKIN’S TEA PARTY
written and illustrated by Erin Barker
published by blue manatee press, September 2019
Picture Book for ages 3-5, 32 pp.
*Fall 2019 Kids’ Indie Next List
♥ Erin provides backstory and discusses her creative process for the book (which is her debut as both author and illustrator) at the blue manatee blog.
♥ Click here for Mr. Pumpkin’s Tea Party Activity Sheets/Coloring Pages.
♥ ETA: Check out these Mr. Pumpkin enamel pins! Adorable :)!
♥ Enjoy the official book trailer:
♥ Watch Erin draw Mr. Pumpkin here:
The beautiful and talented Karen Edmisten is hosting the roundup at her blog with the shockingly clever title. 🙂 Be sure to get in on the fun and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Make the scones soon!!
This review is also being linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs and come join the fun!
*Interior spreads from Mr. Pumpkin’s Tea Party, text and illustrations copyright © 2019 Erin Barker, published by blue manatee press. All rights reserved.
**Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.