Autumn is upon us — a season of harvest with pumpkins, apples and more — and a perfect time to showcase this incredible new book: “The Farm That Feeds Us: A year in the life of an organic farm,” (2020, Quarto Publishing plc, written by Nancy Castaldo, illustrated by Ginny Hsu, ages 5-12).
This 80-page beauty is not your normal picture book. However, with the lively, colorful illustrations which dominate each page and the many concise segments of text which give just the right amount of information, this book is both completely accessible and comprehensive.
“Hurray for farms that supply us with the food we eat!” begins the first chapter, “Farming and Feeding.”
“Some farmers grow crops like corn, tomatoes, and wheat. Some farmers raise animals, like pigs, chickens, and cows. Some do both,” we learn.
Another blurb in smaller font talks about how farming has changed over the years and how small family farms help us.
The large, bright watercolor illustration of a bustling farm family pulls us in, and at the bottom of the page we read, “Let’s take a look at a farm that feeds us all year round.”
After the next spread delineates the types of farms, we head into “Spring,” where we learn what transpires on the farm in chapters entitled, “Inside the Chicken Coop” (learn about what chickens eat, the shapes and colors of eggs and six breeds of chickens), “At the Orchard” (orchard fruits, blossoms and a special segment on bee hives), “Tilling the Fields” (“Out comes the tractor pulling a plow behind it.”), “Farm Machinery” (pictures and short descriptions of seven types of machines and three hand tools make this a sure favorite), “Harvesting Early Spring Crops” (plots of peas, lettuces and greens, asparagus and radishes, with young, smiling harvesters), “Off to Market” (“Everyone is eager for fresh food from the farm in the spring.”) and “Sheep in Springtime” (Lambing, shearing and six breeds of sheep).
Next, it’s summer, where we read that “… the tree branches are cloaked with green leaves,” and are treated to a sidebar about photosynthesis.
Chapters include “Pick-Your-Own” (strawberries, raspberries, cherries, rhubarb), “Corn Planting and Harvesting” (including three Heirloom corn varieties), “In The Hive” (honey collecting, honey tastes and bee products), “Mowing Hay” (“Dried grass, alfalfa and other green plants make a tasty, healthy diet for cows, sheep and horses.”), “Milking Cows” (with five breeds of cows), “Diversity is Life!” (“Every different plant offers us different tastes and nutrition.”), “Heading to the County Fair” (where we see a bright page full of tents and events, such as, “The tractors chug, chug, chug with lots of weight during the tractor pull.”), “From Farm to Table” (food distribution chain), “Pollinating the Farm” (five important pollinators and what they pollinate), “Natural Pest Control” (rotating crops, isolating crops and warding off pests) and “Planting Cool-Weather Crops” (garlic, spinach, peas, beets, collards and turnips!).
Fall brings us apples (“Pick, pick, pick. Crunch, crunch, crunch,”) and chapters on “Harvesting Pumpkins,” “Pies and Preserves,” “Putting the Fields to Sleep,” “Fall Grazing” and “Animals on the Farm.”
Last we come to winter, with a stunning multimedia illustration of the farm under snow and chapters on “Winter Maintenance” (repairing the barn, cleaning out the chicken coop, splitting wood), “Winter Care of Bees,” “Trimming and Pruning the Orchard,” “Seed Shopping,” “Baking Bread” (with a recipe!), “At the Farmer’s Market,” “Caring for Equipment,” “Feeding the Animals” and the last chapter, “Doing our Bit,” where we learn about ways to support local farms.
By the time you finish this comprehensive book, you and your young readers will feel as if you’ve been to the farm and experienced a year in the life of a farm family.
Alice B. McGinty (alicebmcginty.com) is the award-winning author of almost 50 books for children. Her most recent release, “A Story For Small Bear” (Random House/Schwartz and Wade), releases Oct. 13 and was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month.