Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table encompasses the valuable theme of growing and eating fresh, healthy food, and it does so without preaching, instead sharing the true story of a basketball-pro-turned-turned-inner-city-farmer, making it accessible and inspiring to kids who might not already be growing a garden of vegetables.
But for today’s Picture Books 14:14 Challenge, I’ll be looking at how the author uses conflict to engage readers in that theme.
Title: Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table
Author: Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrator: Eric-Shabazz Larkin
Publisher: Readers to Eaters Books, 2013
Will Allen came from a hard working family who had no car or TV, but filled their bellies and spirits up each night at a table heaping with good food.
After his career as a professional basketball player, Will moved to Milwaukee.
He’d seen that fresh vegetables were as scarce in the city as trout in the desert. Will believed everyone, everywhere, had a RIGHT to good food.
To make this dream happen, Will does not have one catastrophic conflict to overcome. Instead, the story is interspersed with challenges, and each time he resolves one, his dream grows and new challenges arise. Each challenge is posed as a question, provoking the readers to try to figure out the answers themselves and to discover, as Will did, that obstacles are not impossibilities, but often just questions looking for an answer. And Will found answers.
To the question:
But HOW could Will farm in the middle of pavement and parking lots?
Will answered with greenhouses. He answered the question of bad soil with compost, the question of dying worms with research and an improved worm diet, and the question of space with shelves and hanging baskets. As he answered the smaller questions, he was able to ask bigger ones.
How could he build one HUGE table that crossed continents?
Will continues to ask questions and grow not just food, but his dream. The book ends (yes, I’m giving away the ending on this one!) by turning the questions to the reader. Rather than wrap up with a nice resolution, the ending shows that the conflict that not everyone has access to good food continues and it invites the reader to help create the solution.
Will you grow vegetables for your family, your neighbors, on your porch, or roof, or yard? How big will YOUR table be?