Saturday, September 1, 2018

Meet Me at the Farmer's Market by Lisa Pelto, Paula S Wallace

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a brightly and simply illustrated (by Paula Wallace evidently - to my very inexpert eye - in sweet watercolors) young children's book aimed at introducing them to the delights of the farmer's market, but for me it did not get there. Our host is a young girl, seven-year-old Sophia, who each week goes with her mom (who seems to have an inordinately long shopping list!), and while this would superficially seem to be the way to do this, I felt that an opportunity was missed here.

Sophia shows us everything from her PoV, which on the one hand is a great 'in' for other young kids, but on the other, it missed out on teaching young children about good, wholesome, healthy food, and if that's not your aim, why go to a farmer's market?! Most kids these days think food is what comes from the packages on the shelves at the local supermarket. Or worse: from a vending machine. Even an organic food store or a co-op or something like that still has food on shelves. The beauty of a farmer's market is that the foods are laid out very much like they were when they were first pulled from the ground or plucked off the tree or bush. There's a panoply of sensory delights to be had here, but we seemed to have bypassed those on this outing.

This connection with the farmer and with the earth is a crucial one that children need to understand and I got none of that from this book. The book focused on Sophia's limited joys of visiting: seeing families with their dogs, playing with balloons, people-watching. In 17 pages, only four or so actually talked about the food, and none of those related to it in any real way, much less conveyed the hard work or the growth of food from the soil, or to the importance of nurturing our Earth, or of climate change making an impact, or of eating healthily and exercising.

There was barely a word about the joy of being outdoors or relating that experience to food grown outdoors. All we got was a mention of the weather. Nothing was said about the taste of fresh veggies or the smell or feel of touching fresh, whole food. Instead we got the kids eating popsicles and other junk food. There was nothing about where the food came from and what was involved in producing it. No child would want to read a story that simply and boringly lectures them, but for me, this was a truly wasted opportunity to carry a real message, subtly woven into the fabric of the fun stuff. Humans have five senses, all of which delight young children, but the only one that really got any sort of an outing here was the eye.

To me, this book felt lazy in its approach. I wish the author and illustrator all the best in their respective careers, but I cannot recommend a book that fell far too short of the fine goal it ought to have set for itself and for our children.