________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 33. . . .April 26, 2013


Down to Earth: How Kids Help Feed the World. (Orca Footprints).

Nikki Tate.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
48 pp., hardcover, pdf & epub, $19.95 (hc).
ISBN 978-1-45980-423-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-45980-424-1 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-45980-425-8 (epub).

Subject Headings:
Agriculture-Developing countries-Juvenile literature.
Livestock-Developing countries-Juvenile literature.
Food supply-Developing countries-Juvenile literature.
Children-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4

Reviewed from f&g’s.



Though a great deal of wheat and corn is grown worldwide, much of it is used for animal feed. Globally, rice is the single most important food crop for people.

Rice plants thrive in flooded fields where weeds and pests do not grow well. China and India are the world’s largest producers of rice.

Grinding grains
It’s easy to open a box of cereal and pour out the puffed wheat or crispy corn. That’s because the wheat, corn or rice that went into making that cereal was harvested, husked and ground up at a factory before being processed into cereal. All you have to do is pour it in a bowl and add some milk!

In many countries, families grow their own staple crops. Grinding up these plants and grains so they can be cooked and eaten is a time-consuming task when it is done by hand, and children are often called upon to help.

In the savannah (dry grasslands) areas of Africa, staple crops like millet (a type of grain), sorghum (a type of wheat) and groundnuts (known as peanuts in North America) are grown both for local use and to export.


After a brief Introduction to the idea of small family farms, the four chapters in Down to Earth: How Kids Help Feed the World are packed with information about the many types of food grown and how domestic animals are raised around the world. Chapter One, “Seeds and Plants”, talks about sizes and varieties of seeds, what staple foods are grown in different countries, and the cost of organic crops. The second chapter deals with “Feathered Friends” that provide eggs and meat, with a close-up on how chickens are raised. Chapter Three focuses on “Multi-Purpose Animals”, such as goats, pigs, cattle and sheep. The last chapter, “At Work on the Farm”, discusses various animals that contribute to a farm, e.g. dogs, guardian geese, water buffalo, elephants…even worms and bees. In each chapter, one aspect of the author’s own small farm is highlighted: strawberries grown on a rack to save space, unusual features of turkeys, Muscovy ducks that eat garden pests. The book is lavishly illustrated with good quality photos showing farm activities worldwide.

internal art     The subtitle of this book is “How Kids Help Feed the World.” The opening sentence states: “On family farms around the world, children help grow food” and the Introduction promises the book will “explore … ways children help collect seeds, weed gardens, milk goats, herd ducks and more as they grow, harvest, prepare and distribute food.” The expected focus on the role of children is found mainly in the photos and captions (e.g. “Children are often responsible for feeding the chickens and collecting eggs”). A good portion of the photos show children involved with food handling or tending to animals. Kids are only occasionally mentioned in the main text, though, such as on the page about 4-H projects. The language is straightforward and the facts easy to find in other resources, e.g. uses for corn and soybeans, how many piglets are usually born in a litter. The most interesting parts that spotlight children, however, are the inserts about the author’s farm, Dark Creek Farm. In most of these, readers learn more personally engaging and specific information about aspects of food production which would favor roles for kids and which young readers could identify with. I wished for more of this.

      Several detailed pages deal with the topics of genetic diversity, organic compared to regular crops, and animal welfare issues with respect to raising chickens. Especially in these sections, the promised rationale with respect to kids seems to have been sidestepped. Some interesting cultural notes are included, e.g. “In Papua, New Guinea….men compete to see who can grow the biggest yam each year and the whole community celebrates the yam during an annual festival.” The accompanying photo shows kids dressed up to participate in that festival.

      The greatest value in this book may be to change the perception of young readers still under the illusion that food comes from the nearest grocery store. The Resources listed at the back of the book include books to encourage small garden plots at home or school. Most of the websites will be of more interest to adults.


Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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