Chris Barton talks to Pat Zietlow Miller

We’ve fallen in love with, Sophie’s Squash, a delightfully weird new picture book written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. Our Kid’s Book Buyer Meghan G. is a big fan:

Sophie’s Squash is about a girl who adopts a squash as a pet. As the squash slowly rots and rots, she refuses to get rid of it, even as it gets awful and disgusting. It’s hilarious and is definitely keeping our Austin bookshelves weird.”

Austin author Chris Barton recently talked to Pat Zietlow Miller and has allowed us to excerpt the conversation here. To keep up with all of his great conversations with authors, and to be eligible to win free books from him, sign up for his newsletter.

CB: What made you want to write Sophie’s Squash?

PZM: Sonia, my youngest daughter, fell in love with a butternut squash when she was 3 or 4. She gave it a face and treated it like a baby. It was one of several inanimate objects that she had intense feelings for. Others were a blue blanket and a stuffed pig, certain rocks and — occasionally — those small bags of Gold Medal flour.

Sonia is a deeply awesome kid all the way around, but there was     something about her and the squash that stayed with me. Fortunately, I talked her out of her squash before it started to rot, but it all got me thinking. What if she hadn’t been OK with giving up the squash? How would she have handled its ultimate demise? What if I had been more patient as a parent? How might things have played out? So Sophie’s Squash is one scenario that might have happened.

CB: Tell me about the kind of child you think Sophie’s Squash will appeal to the most.

PZM: Sophie’s Squash is for kids like Sonia. Kids who have a blanket or a stuffed animal or a rock or a … something that they love unconditionally and take everywhere and can’t sleep without. Once I wrote this story, I heard of more and more kids like this. Kids who didn’t want their favorite thing to be washed because then it wouldn’t smell right. Kids who took pieces of their favorite blanket or pillow or lovey to college with them.

Kids who like The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams or Owen by Kevin Henkes would probably understand Sophie and Bernice very, very well.

As a side note, at my book launch party for Sophie’s Squash, one of my youngest daughter’s friends asked me why, if the book was inspired by Sonia, I didn’t call it Sonia’s Squash. I told her the truth – that when I read it out loud, it was much harder to say “Sonia’s squash” than “Sophie’s squash.” Plus, Sonia didn’t do everything in the book that Sophie did, and I wanted it to be clear that the story was fiction. The girl looked at me like that was the lamest reason she had ever heard. Ah, well, everyone’s a critic.

In my defense, I did dedicate the book to Sonia.


For more about Chris and his books, visit his website. You can sign up for his enewsletter and have his conversations with authors delivered directly to your inbox.

Copies of Sophie’s Squash are available on our shelves and via

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