Ten years of squashy love: Happy birthday to SOPHIE’S SQUASH

Ten years ago this month, my first picture book was published.

I sold SOPHIE’S SQUASH to Schwartz & Wade Books (now Anne Schwartz Books) after four years of persistent picture book writing and submitting on my part and 126 rejections on a wide variety of manuscripts.

But, after all that, the book was published with illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf. And, then — against the odds for a debut book from an unknown author — SOPHIE’S SQUASH found an audience.

It received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. It also won Golden Kite and Crystal Kite awards, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor.

That was all undeniably cool.

But, then … THEN … I started hearing from readers. How their child now had a squash friend to hold in their arms, bounce on their knee and love. How adults read the book to aging relatives with dementia who were able to relate to Sophie and her love for Bernice. How kids and adults had dressed up like Sophie for holidays and events. How people decorated pumpkins to look like Sophie.

The stories kept coming. Along with photos. So many photos.

I heard how teachers used the story in their classes and planted squash. How a squash became a mascot for a preschool class and even had its own yoga mat for yoga time. How a child in another country wrote a grocery list for her parents that included “three Bernices.”

How a mom read the story to her autistic son who’d fallen in love with a miniature pumpkin to help him understand that the object of his affection would not last forever. How another family must have read the book “at least 600 times.”

And that was AMAZING.

Now, the kids who initially met Sophie are older. Old enough to read the book to younger friends and family members. Old enough to talk to me about it if I meet them at school visits or book events.

Knowing that families think of my book whenever they see a pile of butternut squash at the grocery store or a farmers’ market makes me really happy. And, because the book is still in print — in hardcover and paperback — a whole new generation of children and families can get to know Sophie and Bernice.

Interestingly enough, when the manuscript was getting rejection letters from editors, one theme that came up frequently was that it was too quiet and might not have enough of a hook to lure readers into the story.

I think what those editors and I missed was that love was the story’s hook. Sophie loves Bernice. So much that she doesn’t care if people point and stare or if Bernice gets mushy and gross.

And Sophie’s parents love Sophie. Sure, they’re mildly concerned about her devotion to a piece of produce, but their love lets them offer some suggestions and then step back and trust that Sophie will figure it all out. Which, of course, she does.

When I sign copies of the book, I usually write, “Friends come in all shapes and sizes.” It’s a message that absolutely applies to Sophie and Bernice, but also to so many other people and situations in life. I hope SOPHIE’S SQUASH gets to keep sharing that message for generations to come.

If you’d like to see some of the amazing pictures of readers and their squash that I’ve received during the past 10 years, watch the video below.

If you’d like to hear about the actual, real-life events that inspired me to write SOPHIE’S SQUASH — and see pictures of my daughter who inspired the book — watch this brief video.

In honor of a decade of SOPHIE’S SQUASH, here’s a graphic (expertly designed by my friend Ian Chalgren) sharing key numbers from the book’s journey:

Do you need a copy of the book for yourself or a child in your life? Visit a library or contact:

BookShop: https://tinyurl.com/52y9nme9

B&N: https://tinyurl.com/285xcnxf

Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/49ptws49

Mystery to Me, an independent bookstore, also has signed copies. You can call them at 608-283-9332 or email them at [email protected].

Finally, if you want to share a squash-loving photo of your own, I’d love to see it. Use #SophiesSquash when you post on social media.


  1. What a legacy, Pat! You are making a difference in children’s lives. That’s why we write, isn’t it? Happy 10-year anniversary!

  2. Congratulations, Pat, and Happy 10th to Sophie’s Squash! I vividly remember having it read aloud to us in a picture book class and thinking…wow!

  3. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    Congratulations Pat. What a joyful post. Sophie’s Squash and you deserve ALL the accolades. It is such an incredible book!

  4. Sophie’s Squash is a really gourd-geous book and deserves all the love!

  5. Joyce Patricia Uglow

    I’d rather hug a squash that cook one. I’m with Sophie all the way. Congratulations on the ten year anniversary! Persistence pays off.

  6. I love this post Pat, hearty congrats! Happy Birthday, Bernice ;)!

  7. Love this enormously!!! (Eyeballing this year’s squash crop.)

  8. Congratulations Pat and Sophie! What an inspiration you both are!

  9. Happy 10 year anniversary! What an amazing legacy!

  10. SOPHIE’S SQUASH is one of the most delightful books ever! And I am a huge fan of butternut squashes, too (sorry acorn and spaghetti squashes), which makes the book extra special in my eyes. Happy 10th birthday, SOPHIE and SQUASH!

  11. Pat, your videos made me laugh out loud. Thanks for being an inspiration. I love SOPHIE’S SQUASH! Congratulations on 10 years.

  12. Great post! Happy 10 year anniversary! It’s amazing to see a book’s journey and how it inspires!

  13. Yes, LOVE is the story’s hook! Talk about universal… Everyone in our family loved Sophie.

  14. Yay, Sophie! And whoa, TIME FLIES. How can it be 10 YEARS?

  15. Hooray for Sophie! Hooray for squash! Hooray for YOU!

  16. Aw Pat! Congratulations!!! What a lovely ten-year anniversary!!! Books are truly the gift that keep on giving. Enjoy every moment!

  17. Susan R. Apps-Bodilly

    I love your numbers graphic! Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of this beautiful story.

  18. I LOVE butternut squash, your book, and this wonderful back story! Every day life does inspire fiction, if we are open to the endless possibilities and embrace the “what if’s”!

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