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Food for thought: farming for kids

Grow! Raise! Catch! How We Get Our Food

Shelley Rotner
Holiday House
32 pp.

Age Range: 4 – 7 years

Grade Level: Preschool – 2

Children in our increasingly urbanized world, we worry, are failing to understand where food comes from. A glossy store-bought apple looks manufactured, and a ready-made pizza is often topped with unidentifiable objects. This book aims to correct any misunderstandings that 3- to 5-year-olds may have about the stuff they eat, where it comes from, and who is responsible for producing it.

Using a large format and cheerful photographs of attractive people holding attractive plants and animals, city kids can see that apples grow on trees and bread first grew as a wheat plant. The photographs convey a sanitized view and are essentially about the people who do farming rather than farming activities themselves, although there is a fine photograph of a tractor that I predict will attract the most attention from child readers. The photographs are interspersed with some text, of the type: “We’re VEGETABLE FARMERS. We love to grow peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes,” and “Lobsters shed their shells as they grow.” A glossary is provided at the back for more technical terms such as “nutritious,” “predator,” and “vitamins,” along with some valuable (but scant) key text explaining “You are what you eat.”

The direct connection between a child holding a vegetable or hugging a calf and food on a plate will need further explanation and possibly some more difficult conversations about combine harvesters and abattoirs. So, the chief value of this book will be as a prompt to what a teacher’s or a parent’s distant memory of the countryside can add to it. This handsome production will work in the classroom to spark conversations and, better still, may prompt children to get their hands dirty and ask to grow food for themselves.