AUTHOR: Pat Brisson
ILLUSTRATOR: Mary Azarian
Publisher: Tilbury House, 2014
Intended Age: 2-5 (publisher says 4-8)
Themes: Gratitude, Food, Farms
Opening lines: As we sit around this table
let's give thanks as we are able
to all the folks we'll never meet
who helped provide this food we eat.
Synopsis: A lyrical look at where our food comes from, for the very young.
What I like about this book: As the jacket flap says--"Milk doesn't just appear in your refrigerator." It is easy to believe that grocery stores are magical places where food 'appears.' But farming is hard work, involving a lot of people. I like that this book shows a variety of ages, races and genders participating in the process. It is a simple, romanticized, view of the industry, focusing on small farms where fathers (or grandfathers) hand eggs to their young son who carries them in a basket while chicks stroll around their feet. And this may not be an entirely accurate portrait of how the majority of our food gets to the table but it is age appropriate and a wonderful start to the discussion of the origin of the food we eat. Kirkus succinctly described the book as a "secular grace." Mary Azarian's distinctive vibrant wood-cut ink-printed illustrations keep a gentle focus on the people doing the work. My favorite illustration captures the rolling seas around the fisherman. On her website Mary says that this will "probably be my last picture book." Say it ain't so!
Resources: Read the entire Kirkus review for Before We Eat here.
A Youtube post that I hoped would show you more inside the book was a static image. Skip that.
The Carle museum includes this book in a list of ten wonderful books about food and farms.
I feel lucky that I grew up in a family that grew food in a garden. If you have room outside or in a window box, winter is the time to plan what you want to plant! I have had good luck with lettuce and herbs indoors. If you don't have the space for that, come fall you can go Pick Your Own at a farm in your area.
The treatment of farm animals engenders strong opinions, so be careful what links you let your kids click on. Kenyon College provides an analytic, non-judgmental, view of the milk cow industry.
Many zoos have "petting zoo" areas that feature farm animals like sheep and goats. Be ready to discuss how they get to your plate if you eat these creatures and go for a visit!
If you google "farm themed activities for kids" you are going to get hundreds of results! I'm not a Pinterest person but I was in 4-H (sheep club, cooking and sewing) and I want to make the paper plate and painted cotton sheep shown here.
Tilbury House lists four items that may be of interest to readers. I didn't get a hold of any of these before I posted but they look like some might be a bit intense for some of the youngest readers--for example one is a free teacher's guide for a book titled Everybody's Somebody's Lunch dealing with the predator/prey concept and the death of a pet, and another is a picture book that deals with the issue of hunting.
This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF
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