PUMPKINHEADS by Rainbow Rowell, Faith Erin Hicks — 🎃

pumpkinheads by rainbow rowell, faith erin hicksDeep within the wild, windswept woods, a man is walking. Bearded and bedraggled, his layered clothing ragged and torn in places, all indicative of a long and arduous journey. Still, the man’s pace is steadfast, his steps sure. He is walking towards a certain light.

Back in the house, the librarian searches for a book.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this far into the house before,” says Calcifer. It is perched on a bony shoulder. They have both traveled a long way.

“The house is as old and vast as tales are in the history of the world and the reckoning of time.”

“What?”

“The house is very large, yes.”

“Right.”

Osseous pulls out a thin volume from a shelf, making a satisfied noise. The book looks somewhat new, an odd thing given the other offerings of the house, which include tomes that may or may not be older than the known universe. It boasts a colorful cover that almost seems to blaze in the dim surroundings. It features two figures — a man and a woman — lying comfortably in a field.

“What’s that one about, then?” asks Calcifer.

“Love and friendship, mostly,” says Osseous, grabbing the lamp on the table and walking once more out of the room. “About missed moments and seized opportunities. The ever-changing seasons of life. About endings and beginnings.”

“Doesn’t sound all that gloom and doom, to be honest,” says Calcifer, taking flight once more.

“No, it’s decidedly not. But it’s never a bad thing to have a little light against the approaching darkness.”

“I guess.”

Lamp held up, the two figures make their way back through the shadows.

At the far end of the house, there is a knock at the door.

The librarian hands the man a cup of something warm. The man has cleaned up somewhat, but still looks tired and threadbare. “Thank you, Oz,” the man says. He nods his head towards the crow resting on its usual spot at the top of the bookcase. “So he’s new.”

“To you, maybe,” mutters the crow.

“What’s your name?”

“Calcifer.”

“Lucifer?”

Calcifer,” corrects Osseous.

“Can I call you Cal?”

“Hell no.”

The man shrugs. An awkward silence ensues.

“Well, I’ve never been one for small talk,” says the man, standing up. “Lead the way, Oz,” he says, gesturing at the librarian. “I want to see Josie and Deja.”

What can I say about this book that I haven’t already said before? This is my fourth year reading Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks, and I love it just as much as I did when I first picked it up back in 2019 — if not more so. ⠀

I decided to take my time with it on this occasion, the better to appreciate the art of illustrator Faith Erin Hicks and colorist Sarah Stern. They each put so much care and effort into depicting this, as Rowell and Hicks describe it, fictional “Disneyland of pumpkin patches,” that it’s the integral part of the story’s charm. The tacky signage. The whimsical food stands. The characters running around the background who, instead of being vaguely depicted stand-ins, as is the norm in comics, are drawn to look like actual, authentic people. It all helps to make this world feel lived-in and real. Like a place with stories that continue long after the final pages of this book.⠀

Which of course leads me, inevitably, to once again voice my deep and abiding desire for the Christmas sequel hinted at the end of this graphic novel to become an actual, proper thing. I need it. You need it. The world certainly needs it. Give us more Deja and Josie.

PUMPKINHEADS by Rainbow Rowell, Faith Erin Hicks — 🎃

blog - pumpkinheads by rainbow rowell, faith erin hicksAnother Hallowe’en. Another year of reading this graphic novel. Another year of me gushing about this book. You probably know the drill by now.

This is my third year reading Pumpkinheads, the exceedingly charming graphic novel by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks (with colors by Sarah Stern). The last couple of times I’ve picked it up at the very start of the Hallowe’en season, feeling its lighthearted tone and quintessentially fall vibes made for a perfect way to kick off October. This time around I opted to wait until the end of the month, for no reason other than that is when the story is set and it felt right. As the weeks passed, I found myself anxious to fall back into it, but it was absolutely worth the wait. Reading this graphic novel feels like a homecoming now. Like catching up with friends you haven’t seen in over a year. 

Josie and Deja, our preposterously beautiful protagonists, certainly feel like friends. I always finish this story wanting to read more about them. Rowell ends the story hinting at a Christmas reunion, and hopefully that’s more than a throwaway line and is actually in the cards because that’s something I would desperately want.

The autumn ambiance artists Hicks and Stern have illustrated define the season for me now. The images and colors they conjured up are what I see whenever I think of this time of year. Quite the feat seeing as how I live in a place with no proper fall.

Lastly, this book just makes me cry, dudes. “October means you,” never fails to hit me like a bag of bricks. 

Pumpkinheads is not remotely spooky. It’s all heart and mush and feelings, instead — notions not traditionally associated with the autumn months. But it means October to me, still.

PUMPKINHEADS by Rainbow Rowell, Faith Erin Hicks

pumpkinheads

Rainbow Rowell has made me cry. Yet again. I’ve read enough of her work for this to be expected, but everything about Pumpkinheads — her first graphic novel with the inimitable Faith Erin Hicks — sounded to me like it was just going to be a cute, fun romp.

And it was, you know? Pumpkinheads is the story of Josiah and Deja, two high school seniors who’ve spent the last couple of years working at their local pumpkin patch every Fall. Theirs is a seasonal friendship, but the bond they develop is strong and they consider themselves best friends. This is their last season working together, and once it wraps up they will both, for the last time, go their separate ways, towards college and new lives. So Deja is determined to have their last day (their last Hallowe’en together) be an adventure. “Friends,” she says at one point, “don’t let friends live small lives.”

Pumpkinheads is charming and adorable and the most fun, gentle read. As are most of Rowell’s stories. And like most of Rowell’s stories, it isn’t just any of those things. There’s always more. And there’s a lot of heart and soul in this graphic novel. A lot of true things about friendship and relationships and what it means to leave people and places behind. And quite a lot of Autumn. This is probably the most Fall book I’ve ever read. I could feel it wrapped around me like a light sweater, could practically smell the crisp October air. Quite the feat considering I live in Puerto Rico, and have never actually come across a proper, Midwestern Fall.

All of this is beautifully conveyed by Faith Erin Hicks’s beautiful, beautiful artwork. She’s drawn up a gorgeous and warm, welcoming world into which I desperately want to jump.

Hicks deserves a lot of recognition in terms of the story, too. The book’s back matter includes a conversation between the authors which makes note of the fact that the script Hicks received from Rowell was more screenplay-like in nature, lacking a lot of the beat-by-beat description that is usually found in most comic book scripts, and it was up to her to break down the panels and figure out the pacing of the story. A job she did marvelously — this is a fulfilling but very brisk read. (“There is a lot of skill,” Hicks says, “behind a ‘quick read.'”)

Hicks ends the same conversation with the following: “In the beginning, you’re trying to get to know them, who they are and how best to draw them so their personalities come through, visually. And by the time you’ve drawn the last page in their graphic novel, these characters are your best friends.” This is, of course, in reference to the drawing process, but it also perfectly encapsulates the experience of reading the story of these characters. You pretty much like Josie and Deja from the get-go, but you love them by the end. And then you understand, quite perfectly, just why they are so loathe to say good bye to their pumpkin patch.

I loved this book.