By Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Amy Huntington. Charlesbridge, 2017. 32 pages. $16.99/hardcover; $9.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 3–8.
Short, rhythmic poems celebrate the variety of treasures to be explored at a local urban farmers’ market from sunup to sundown. Although the rhymes are easy, the poet has tossed in long and unusual words which will piqué the interest of ages three to eight: transformations, meticulous, impeccable, shish kebab, alchemy, Dalmatians, baklava.
The story, told in 17 poems, is revealed from the point of view of two children who share the day’s amusements while trying to keep their dogs out of trouble. The child-friendly market offers face painting and a dress-up trunk, motivating a poem, “Wild Dreams in Two Voices.” One voice, Green Zebra Tomato, and another, Dinosaur Kale, alternate reading in counterpoint with occasional lines read by both voices in unison. In “Necessary Mess,” there is a reminder that “No crops would grow without a lot of dirt.” “Local Loot” ends with “We find and eat our treasures on local market trips.”
Exuberant, action-filled illustrations cover the pages. Watercolor, graphite, and ink double-paged spreads follow the brown-skinned farmer’s son and his friend, a white city girl, through all the pages. A multiethnic crowd comes to shop, visit, listen to fiddle music, meet farmers, and enjoy lemonade. In “Delightful Bites,” the words waft all over the space as children and dogs sniff sweet flavors. At the end of the day, the farmer and his son pack up their truck. The girl and her mother are shown at their apartment admiring fresh purchases.
Farmers’ markets have been around since the 1600s in this country. They are on the rise in cities as people organize to abolish food deserts by supporting local, fresh farm-to-table efforts. When farmers have steady local markets, they can grow a greater variety of vegetables and fruits, using more environmentally sound farming practices. There is much for Quakers to like about this book for very young children. The themes of building community, trying and preparing new foods for healthy eating, and helping the environment come to mind. It would be easy to pair Fresh-Picked Poetry with more fanciful trickster tales with food themes, such as Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, Stone Soup in any of its forms, or the story of coöperation in The Turnip by Jan Brett.
On the last page of Fresh-Picked Poetry the poet gives reasons to spend a day at the market. My own local market has a saying: “We are saving the world, one veggie at a time.”