Nearly all the sheep ranchers in Blue Gum Valley rode horses or drove jeeps to check on their sheep. But Joshua Summerhayes liked to run…with Yellow Dog trailing behind him.” So it’s no surprise when Joshua decides to enter a race from Melbourne to Sydney. People laugh when old Joshua shows up in his overalls and gumboots, calmly nibbling a slice of pumpkin for energy. But then he pulls into the lead, and folks are forced to sit up and take notice. Inspired by a true event (and just in time for fall’s pumpkin harvest!) a talented team introduces a humble and generous hero who knows that winning isn’t always the reason to run a race.
Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold is the picture book author of 21 books, with over one million books sold. Her books have garnered honors from Best First Book by a New Author to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Smithsonian Notable. Recent books include the bilingual Galápagos Girl and Lost. Found., both Junior Library Guild selections. Lost. Found. received three starred reviews and was illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Matthew Cordell.
Growing up on the Kansas prairies, Marsha lived in Northern California most of her life. Now she lives with her husband in Florida, near the Caloosahatchee River and her family. Besides creating stories, she loves scuba diving, hiking, traveling, gardening, and climbing trees.
Where did you originally get the idea for this book?
THE PUMPKIN RUNNER was inspired by the legendary Cliff Young, who, in his sixties, competed in an Australian ultra-marathon. Against younger professionals, he surprised everyone by winning! The idea came from a short entry about Cliff Young in a sports magazine. At that time, it was much more difficult to find information on the internet, so most of the story is completely fictional, including my character’s name - Joshua Summerhayes.
What is your favorite thing about this book’s main character?
Joshua Summerhayes was an easy-going, kind soul, who did things his way. Yet with perseverance and against great odds, he won an ultra-marathon between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. From everything I’ve learned about Cliff Young, since the book was published in 1998, he was the same.