Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Sue Heavenrich's Newest Concoction: The Pie That Molly Grew! Craft Chat & Book Review by Kathy Halsey


Sue with her newest creation!

Book Review by Kathy Halsey

If you’re ready for some cooler weather and pumpkin-anything (latte, bread, or, dare I say ... pie?), my author friend Sue Heavenrich is here to serve up her newest book, THE PIE THAT MOLLY GREW, illustrated by Chamisa Kellogg, who added all the best artistic “ingredients” to this timeless picture book.  

Sue and Chamisa mix up a delightful read that will have you wanting to grow pumpkins, helping pollinators, and, of course, making a yummy pumpkin pie that will bring the people together. 

The cumulative story structure, based on The House That Jack Built, will have readers hooked already as they easily fall into the rhythm and rhyme Sue’s created. Readers follow Molly’s pumpkin from seed to sprout to table and learn that patience, nature, and nurture are needed to create family desserts that become traditions.   

I love how illustrator Kellogg adds her own special touches, weaving the pumpkin and growth themes throughout the picture book from the typography on the cover to the eye shapes of Molly and friends that echo the shape of seeds. I enjoyed the inclusivity in the images, too. We have diverse groups of people all enjoying the fruits of growing their own food.

This is the perfect book to celebrate fall, holidays, nature, as well as the community nature of gardening. Make sure to let readers know that author Heavenrich has grown and harvested pumpkins, too, and so can they. (Thanks, Sue, for providing pictures from her own garden.)

The Pie That Molly Grew GROG Q&A

Kathy: Sue, I love the read aloud-ability this picture book has. I applaud the genius move of using the well-known rhyme scheme from The House That Jack Built. Tell us a bit about the decision to use rhyme over prose. Did you write both and then figure out the stronger of the two versions?

Sue: A line came to me: “This is the pie that Molly made.” That set the beat and I figured I would just go along with it. I tried (really tried) to write it in prose, but it came out half-baked. When the editor suggested starting with planting the seed, everything came together.

Kathy: The rhyme scheme begins on the third spread of the picture book with “These are the roots that reach down and branch out, to anchor the plant that began to sprout”.  Is that the case for The House that Jack Built, too, or did you alter where the rhyme begins?

Sue: I wanted to keep the feel of the original nursery rhyme, but I also wanted to play around within it. The original House that Jack Built repeats everything as it accumulates lines from one verse to the next. I decided not to do that because strict repetition can get … repetitious. So I shortened some lines, changed words, all the while keeping the rhythm of the story going - especially on the last two spreads, because who wants to wait so long to get to the pie?

Kathy: Today it is hard to sell a picture book as an author only. While crafting this story, did you think about including multiple hooks for increased audience interest and salability? Why pumpkin pie? (I admit that’s my favorite, too.)

Sue: I’m always thinking about how many different ways a parent or teacher can use a book. Perhaps that comes from homeschooling my kids, or maybe from creating STEM programs for summer camps and library programs. So I knew I wanted connections to garden, native plants, and pollinators. And I also wanted a deeper connection to gratitude.As for why pumpkin pie - it’s my favorite kind of pie! 

Learn to make and pie and how pollinators help!

Kathy: I know we are both nonfiction nuts who love back matter. I enjoyed  seeing four pages of back matter discussing the process of seed to fruit to table, pollinators, and how to bake a delicious pumpkin pie!  Did you add back matter later in the revision process or did your editor suggest it? How do you suggest writers advocate for back matter? Is there a standard number of pages authors should create for additional information?

Sue: I love back matter! When I was homeschooling, I always wanted to know more, and wished authors had included resources and activities. I started my writing as a journalist, and my articles for adults and children would often include sidebars. So when I began writing picture books I thought: Gee, where would I add sidebars to this? When I write the manuscript, I keep a list of things I want to include as back matter. Then, at the end of the story, I’ll put in a section titled “suggested back matter” with subtitles. For this book I knew I wanted to write about pumpkins as crop native to the Americas, and include my recipe (which my grandmother used). I also wanted to highlight the ecological services of bees and show the diversity of bees that help pollinate pumpkins and other squash.

Can you see Sue's pumpkin peeking out at us? Like Molly, she grows pie!

Kathy:What is your favorite spread in this book? (I love the spread with all the different tables that are placed end-to-end to make room for the pies!) What was your reaction to the illustrations when you first saw them? 

Kathy: Sue: I love the illustrations, and am so grateful that Chamisa Kellogg took on this book! Here’s the thing: we both love pumpkin pie, and we both grow pumpkins in the garden. Not only does Chamisa know pumpkins, but she brings such expressive joy to the page.

I have a couple of favorite spreads. One is where Molly and her brother are waiting (and waiting) for the seed to germinate … it takes such a long time that a bird builds a nest! And I really love the spread where Molly is in the garden with the bees, and she is journaling. 

Kathy: With The Pie That Molly Grew, you will now have 4 books out for young readers. How has the process of book creation stayed the same and changed over the years? 

Sue: I’m pretty sure the general process is the same: I’m minding my own business, perhaps weeding the beets or shoveling snow, when SMACK! An idea whaps me upside the head. And then I have to write it down before it flies away. And later I get curious, and start investigating this idea: is it a picture book idea? Does it need more words, and maybe a few chapters? And then I do some research on the topic, and then I fall down a rabbit hole and do more research than I’ll ever need… and then I scribble things on a page, cross them out, try again, and again… 

Kathy: How are l you celebrating this book launch and how can readers get involved? 

Sue: We are in the middle of a Blog Tour! And I am so grateful that you have offered a blog stop where we can stop, rest awhile, chat, and maybe get a cold glass of lemonade. Last week we visited Vivian Kirkfield, Maria Marshall at the Picture Book Buzz, and Carol Baldwin. On Friday I’ll be dropping in on Beth Anderson and then on Monday, the 28th I’ll hang out with Lauri Fortino at Frog on a Blog

My book release event will be September 9 at Tioga Arts Council in Owego, NY and co-hosted with Riverow Books. There will be reading, science and art activities, pumpkin cupcakes, and a silly song or two. I hope to visit a couple more blogs in October and November, and I know KidLit411 will be doing a giveaway mid-September. I’m so glad I saved those freebie calendars that come in the mail - I need one to keep track of what I’m doing and when!

Find Sue here on SM!


Archimedes Notebook blog:

Sue's pumpkin flowers, just like spreads from illustrator Chamisa Kellogg!


  1. This looks like a wonderful book to celebrate fall--I'll ask for it at my library!

    1. I think you'll enjoy it... the "pie" side of leaf-season!

  2. This book sounds delightful! And YUM. (I've never grown pumpkins, but I know I'd love reading about growing them. I love eating pumpkin anything (canned pumpkin with plain yogurt is one of my go-to snacks!) Yay Sue! And thanks, Kathy, for sharing this with us.

    1. I love pumpkin pie, and I like yogurt - I have never thought of eating them together! Sounds like a healthy snack.

  3. This looks terrific, Sue! I love that you turned The House That Jack Built into an educational book about pie! 😊

  4. Oh, Sue, this sounds delightful! We just harvested some Korean yellow melons, and the bees (accidentally) cross-pollinated it with cucumbers, so we had a few mixed-up melon/cucumbers. I look forward to reading your rhythmic book! Thanks, Kathy.