PB 14:14 Day 5 – Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

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 TableFarmer Will Allen

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?

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10 Comments

Filed under Picture Books

10 responses to “PB 14:14 Day 5 – Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

  1. Laura, this appears to be a great story and book. I’m not sure I didn’t see a documentary or at least a news item on PBS Newshour about this guy. I will have to locate this book. I’m anxious right now to till up my garden plot and get started! Love fresh produce. Thanks for your review.

    • Me too! I can’t wait to dig my hands into the dirt again. I hadn’t actually heard of Will Allen until I read this book, but I’m interested in learning more about him now that I have!

  2. I love this book, and it works so well to show kids how to solve problems. Great analysis!

  3. Love the last line… how big will your table be? A beautiful question to think about today on Ash Wednesday!

  4. I’d never heard of him before! This sounds like an interesting book. My family eats healthy so I am all for educating kids on this. Also, I think it is nice to show that a person can be many things.

  5. How great for kids to see a figure in book that they would admire in real life being healthy. A pro basketball player was a wonderful choice.

  6. This sounds like a wonderful book! I’m all about healthy, fresh foods and teaching kids to eat good food and not junk. Can’t wait for the farmer’s markets to return this summer. I wish I had a green thumb, but haven’t found it yet. I’m sure that children will be inspired by the sports connection in this book. I love that Will has the goal of building “one big table to stretch across the continents.” What a great line! When I saw the topic it reminded me of another story I heard about an NFL player who left a huge salary to start a garden and feed the hungry. Here’s a link: http://naturalthrifty.com/nfl-football-player-quits-open-farm-feed-hungry.html

    • You’re right – those are such parallel stories! Thanks for sharing it. How awesome that both of them are helping people in need and at the same time broadening the way we view professional athletes.
      I’m sure you’ve got your own green thumb somewhere, but farmer’s markets are also such a great way to go!

  7. Love this whole idea of having a right to good food, and then being creative about how to get it.

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