Monday, June 24, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Down to earth: How kids help feed the world by Nikki Tate

 Orca is starting a new nonfiction series for young readers focusing on environmental impact. From the title, I was expecting stories about kids around the world who help feed their families. The book is really an introduction to food production on small, organic farms and in rural, undeveloped countries. At least that's the best description I can come up with.

There are lots of photographs of kids helping on family farms around the world and many anecdotes from the author's own family-run farm, Dark Creek Farm. The book has a chapter explaining seeds, plants and gardens, a chapter on chickens and ducks, a chapter devoted to other animals like pigs and sheep and a final chapter on working animals, or multipurpose animals.

The book is very balanced in its approach; for example, it talks about large-scale poultry farms and their drawbacks, but it also explains what other egg carton labels mean and that "organic" or "free range" don't necessarily mean the chickens are treated well or aren't affected by chemicals in some way. The book also talks about 4-H, genetic diversity in plants and animals, and how cows affect the environment. There are lots of suggestions for how kids can be part of the food process whether they live in a rural or urban area.

There is a short list of further reading, websites, and an author's note about her farm and the people who helped her with the book. There is also a detailed index. I thought the economics aspect of the farms was a little weak; I live in a rural area and two of my colleagues have farms, most of my colleagues have gardens and there are lots of small farms and farmer's markets around here. However, only a few of them are self-sustaining - most of the farmers I know have to work multiple outside jobs to make ends meet. Of course, that's not really in the scope of the book, I just thought it was a little on the rosy side when talking about how much work goes into being self-sustaining.

Verdict: Whether your population is urban or rural, this is a good resource to teach kids where their food comes from and get them involved in the process. I have high hopes of forming some kind of junior gardeners or children's garden program at some point in the future and have been collecting books on this subject in pursuit of that goal, so this definitely fits into our collection. It's briskly written and has lots of interesting facts. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781459804234; Published 2013 by Orca; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library


Playing by the book said...

Glad to hear about Orca - sounds like a series I'd enjoy.

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for the introduction to a terrific book. I'm glad you pointed out the fact that labeling on eggs can be misleading. I'm lucky in that I buy my eggs from a neighbor and I know how she treats her chickens. (smile)