CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 14. . . .March 6, 2009
Two Old Potatoes and Me.
John Coy. Illustrated by Carolyn Fisher.
New York, NY: Dragon Fly Books (Distributed in Canada by Random House Canada), 2009.
32 pp., pbk., $8.99.
Fathers and daughters-Fiction.
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
In August, some of the plants turned brown and withered.
"Are they dead?"
"No," said Dad. "The potatoes are growing underground."
"Are you sure?"
"I hope so. That's what your grandpa said."
In part, Two Old Potatoes and Me is a story of tending to a garden, growing new potatoes from the old ones that sprouted while stored in the back of a kitchen cupboard. This story structure, however, is really only the shell in which has been encased the portrait of a loving and affectionate father-daughter relationship.
John Coy's text and Carolyn Fisher's artwork are detailed and informative and work well together to create an interesting book. Coy's lovely portrayal of a gentle, humble and patient father establishes a pleasant tone to the book while Fisher's illustrations are visually intriguing.
Although sparse, the text has some lyrical qualities that are pleasing to the ear. The text is presented in a variety of fonts and sizes. In places, this makes some words a little hard to read, and, because the pages are so busy and the text forms so inconsistent and embedded into the artwork, I initially did not see some of the words as I read the book the first time. Although these difficulties are problematic, in some ways I found that they added to the intrigue of the book. Certainly, the art and the words work together very closely—more so than in most books—given that the words are used as a part of the illustrations.
Fisher's artwork is heavily textured and appropriately reflective of the dirt and grit of a potato patch. The mixed media images appear to be computer-generated collages, and they feature some unusual, albeit bold, colour choices.
The story protagonists spend time together only occasionally as the girl's parents do not share the same home. Each page builds toward the predictable eventual bountiful fall harvest. Given the success of the venture, this book is likely to encourage children to want to invest some time into gardening—something that Coy and Fisher present as an ideal opportunity for some family bonding, learning and growing together.
At book's end, a recipe is included for mashed potatoes, and I expect that, having tried their hand at gardening, many young readers will then be anxious to try out their skills in the kitchen.
This book does not fit neatly into the style of my usual favourite type of picture books; however, I like the "feel" of the book. Although unusual, the longer one looks, the better the book becomes. From first page to last, I think Two Old Potatoes and Me provides a nice, pleasant reading and viewing experience, and I think that it has lots of potential to encourage readers to get out into the garden and to enjoy the chance to spend time working alongside another family member.
Gregory Bryan lives in Winnipeg, MB. Once the snow melts, he enjoys being outside in the garden, pulling weeds with his two young daughters. Bryan teaches children's literature classes in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.
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