CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 24 . . . . February 24, 2012
Originally published in 2009 as Alfalfabet A to Z, The Wonderful Words from Agriculture, by the British Columbia Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation, this revised informational picture book offers up a healthy serving of food facts. Each letter is shown in upper and lower cases and is accompanied by an alliterative phrase, from “Ants on Asparagus”, to “Zoom Zoom Zucchini”. The pages are full of interesting tidbits (“The chicken is the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex”), rhymes (“Five little peas/In a pea pod pressed”), and games (“Zucchini Race Rules”). The conversational writing style will appeal to a wide range of ages and offers kid-friendly comparisons such as, “Geese are great lawnmowers. A goose’s bill is shaped like a triangle, and instead of teeth, it has sharp notches along its edges”). The text also invites reader response: “What vegetables can you find growing underground?”
Sorrentino’s mixed-media collages are vibrant and engaging. Complementary colours make the scenes come alive. The spread for “N n Nibbling Nectar” has a lime green background, purple flowers and a red-throated hummingbird. Different perspectives are also presented, such as an aerial view of bees working in their hive.
Comparing the two editions, the term “agriculture” has been replaced with “farm” in not only the title, but the text. The opening pages of the 2009 edition explain, “Agriculture (ag-ri-kuhl-cher) is a big word that means working together on many things … Agriculture grows alfalfa for the Angus, hay for the horse, canola for our cooking oil and wheat for our bread. It gives us milk from cows, honey from bees, eggs from hens and wool from sheep.” In the 2011 edition, the text is more personalized: “What do you think of when you hear the word “farm”? Do you think of a field of corn, a big red barn, a pumpkin patch, or a bed of clams? … Do you think of where your food comes from? Farmers grow plants and raise animals to make things we need. They grow hay for the horse, grass for the Angus, wheat for our bread, and apples for our pies.”
Other minor tweaks include changes to the letter phrases (“B b Blueberries, Beetles and Beans” now appears as “Blueberries, Beets and Beans”), and the addition of new narrative passages (a pig clarifies, “We are clean animals!”). The revisions do add to the readability of the overall work. However, Canadian readers will notice that the metric measurements have now been changed to the US imperial system.
There is much to explore in both the text and the illustrations. Pair this book with Deborah Hodge’s Up We Grow (Kids Can Press, 2010) for a discussion about where food comes from and the important work of farmers.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.
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