“Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table” by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Eric-Shabazz Larkin

ImageThe Plot In Five Sentences Or Less:  While playing basketball in Belgium as a young man, Will Allen discovers the joys of digging in the dirt.  When he moves to Milwaukee, he pursues this passion by buying some vacant greenhouses in the city and converting them to farms.  The process is slow because the soil is filled with pollution, but over the years Will’s urban farm revolution spreads around the world.

My Take:  I found this to be an inspiring read.  Jacqueline Briggs Martin does an excellent job of conveying plenty of information about Will and his farming movement without slowing down the story.  Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s bright illustrations conveys the excitement and enthusiasm of Will Allen’s urban farming.  Notes in the back point to other sources of information about Will.  Many readers will no doubt want to start planting seeds on their windowsills after reading this wonderful book.

One Interesting Thing About the Author Or Illustrator: Jacqueline Briggs Martin is also the author of the book Snowflake Bentley, which won the Caldecott award in 1999.

“Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave” by Hill and Collier

I finally got around to taking a look at some of the Caldecott finalists for this year.  I truly enjoyed the lively Interrupting Chicken, but Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave has really captured me. Laban Carrick Hill’s spare prose captures the mysterious character of Dave, his art, and his circumstances.  A slave in South Carolina in the 19th century, Dave spends his time making clay containers and inscribing small poems on the side of some of them.  Bryan Collier’s award winning art combines painting and collage to give life to Dave’s world.  As we read along, we discover that pottery is his balm and escape from his cruel circumstances.  Perhaps Dave best expresses his pain and hope in this simple poem he etches into the side of a jar in 1857: “I wonder where is all  my relation/  friendship to all—and, every nation.”  This book gave me goosebumps.