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old farmers

Harvey likes reading books about pumpkins. Having them read to him, that is; you know what I mean. Other farming-related texts often make their way into our house as well. And I've noticed a pattern: in nearly all cases, when a child in a picture book is described as living on a farm his or her caretakers are grandparents rather than parents. Leaving aside the disturbing question of what happened to the parents (are they dead? drug dealers? financial wizards with no time for their kids?), this shows a disturbing lack of faith in the long-term prospects of American agriculture.

I'm sure there's no slight against farming intended by any of the authors; they just don't expect their readers to believe that a young couple, the sort likely to have a picture-book-protagonist-aged offspring, would willingly tie themselves to the soil for their livelihood. Not that the farmers in the stories seem to be working too hard; it's more the retired-in-the-country-and-fun-to-visit farming. True, there are some good books about farming in the olden days—our last library visit I read Harvey Jane Yolen's Harvest Home—but if you go by most of the books set in the modern day farming is clearly a dying art.

Which it may be, in mainstream culture. But we're fighting the power over here, and we need picture books to back us up and send the right message to our children! One of the rare counter-examples is Nikki McClure's To Market, To Market, which dives right into realistic descriptions of how farmers market vendors grow or make the things they bring to the market. Only there's not much plot to grab you, and the explanations are a little long for Harvey's taste. Oh, he'll listen to them—this child will listen to the dictionary for as long as you're willing to read it to him—but it's not the kind of thing that's going to excite him, either about rereading it or about living it.

So... who knows any children's-book authors?


That's really, really interesting. We're learning here that food can be grown much more easily, and for much more of the year, here in Cape Town, yet vegetable prices are relatively low at the super market (and people are so into bread, milk, and maybe corn porridge as "the real food") that you don't see much being grown. We're trying to make our place totally overcome with vegetables and fruit, enough to make the neighbors start talking.

Yeah, I want to do that to. I'm planning on putting in a free pick-your-own section to our garden this summer, out by the street.

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