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George Washington Carver for Kids

George Washington Carver for Kids: His Life and Discoveries with 21 Activities

Peggy Thomas
Chicago Review Press
144 pp.
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Most people remember George Washington Carver as a Black inventor who created close to 300 peanut products. Peggy Thomas’s book moves beyond that one-dimensional view as she guides the reader through Carver’s life story. Born in the early 1860s to enslaved parents, Carver overcame poverty and segregation to devote his life to improving the livelihood of impoverished Black farmers. Combining his early love of nature and painting, Carver became a naturalist, an ecologist, and a conservationist long before these were valued disciplines.

Sprinkled through the book are 21 activities related to Carter’s life experiences and the challenges he faced. Some of these easy-to-follow activities encourage readers to act like a naturalist by, for example, making their own herbarium. Others allow readers to experience tasks required for daily survival: turning a gourd into a bowl, cooking with weeds, and making blocks like those Carver used to construct a sod home.

As the first Black student to attend Iowa Agricultural College (IAC; now Iowa State University), Carver faced segregation and isolation until an act of solidarity helped break the ice with the other students and faculty. The activity associated with this event encourages readers to form a welcoming committee for new students. Another activity focuses on learning to deliver a speech, a skill that Carver developed at IAC and later used to teach farmers, politicians, and leaders of industry about plants, soils, and the potential of natural products.

Clearly, the knowledge Carver shared in the early 1900s still resonates today. Hopefully, young readers will be inspired by his resilience, thirst for learning, and passion for improving lives.

About the author

The reviewer is the executive editor of Science.