What's in the Garden?
written by Marianne Berkes; illustrated by Cris Arbo
2013 (Dawn Publications)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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Most people recognize that we have a problem in this country with children's eating habits. As a parent, I certainly could do better with the food that I provide for my kids. So how do we go about convincing children and their parents that eating healthier is worth the effort? Books like What's in the Garden? can be part of the solution. This book combines poetry and recipes to make growing, preparing, and eating food a fun experience for a family. Each two page spread starts with a four line rhyming stanza that is the clue for the fruit or vegetable that is the topic of the spread. For example, one particular plant has a "lovely bouquet" for a head and it is great with a dip. Underneath the stanza is an attractive illustration of part of the plant, but not enough to ruin attempts at prediction. When you turn the page, you see a happy child eating a piece of broccoli with dip on it. The recipe and instructions are located beneath the illustration. Although I didn't see this expressly stated in the text (It could be there. I might have missed it!), it seems that the author has made an attempt to make substitutions in order for the recipes to be healthier. The broccoli dip recipe calls for yogurt instead of mayonnaise. In all, there are 11 fruits and vegetables that are featured in the book. In the back matter, there is more information about each plant and general information about the difference between fruits and vegetables and what they need to grow. A glossary of cooking terms and a list of more sources for garden information are also included. Several more activities and bookmarks are available if you go to the downloadable activities page on the Dawn Publications website.
If your school has a garden, this book would be a great resource for your class. I think sharing some of these recipes and the activities page in a parent newsletter would be helpful as well. For older classes, recipes always show up on those pesky standardized reading tests, so you could write one of these recipes on a piece of chart paper and talk about how you read procedural text and what questions you could ask. This also leads to lessons on sequence. Spring is just around the corner so break out your seed catalog, pick up a copy of What's in the Garden? and start planning for a season of healthy eating.