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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

The pumpkin smasher anita benarde
Oct 17, 2018

The Pumpkin Smasher

By Lori Draz

The pumpkin smasher anita benarde

Like finding an old box of family photos, we uncovered a Halloween treat that never gets old, a book called “The Pumpkin Smasher” that was penned in 1972 by author and illustrator Anita Benarde.

The author, now 93, lives in Princeton with her husband, Dr. Mel Benarde, himself a childrens’ book author. She is amazed as more and more copies of her book sell on Amazon each year. Benarde is equally delighted by the fan mail she receives about the simple story, a topic that she said is still relevant today.

“Most everything but the evil character was a true story. I was very angry that someone had smashed the pumpkins in Cranbury,” she said. “The neighborhood kids came together to uncover the foe.”

The book speaks to the themes of bullying and teamwork, in the subtle way of books of old. Benarde, who still works as a fine artist, created the illustrations for the book as well. Her three adult children are proud of the story’s longevity, and happy that their mother’s book is in such demand over 40 years after its publication.

Benarde was recently contacted by a production company in Chicago that wanted to turn her book into a television special for Halloween, because so many fans want to see the story on the big screen.

“At present, a Halloween TV special is being developed in Los Angeles, and I’m enjoying it all,” she said.

The Big Muddy Brewing Company in Illinois also bought a dozen copies of her book because they brew a Pumpkin Smasher beer.

This is just one of the fan letters Benarde has collected:

“Dear Anita, I live in Marietta, Georgia. Your special book, the Pumpkin Smasher, has been a favorite for as long as i can remember. My grandmother was a librarian in Providence, Rhode Island and sent me your book. I have four children, ages 21, 19, 16, and 14. They all love your book, as it was always a part of our Halloween memories. Everyone wants my old copy, so I am purchasing new copies for them to enjoy with their children someday. I just want to thank you and tell you how much I appreciate everything about your wonderful story. The illustrations are the very best and help set the mood of Halloween in Cranbury. I love it.”

The Pumpkin Smasher is still available – and is still a smash!