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What We’re Reading: Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

Post by Beth Gerall
Posted January 14, 2014 in Kids & Book News, NoveList Bookshelf, NoveList K-8 Plus

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Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

What is it about?
Will Allen grew up on a farm but knew he wanted a different life for himself.  He went to college, became a professional basketball player with a successful career, helped out on a teammate's farm, and felt nostalgic for his old life, then moved on to a white collar job. One day, he saw a city block with dilapidated greenhouses on it and he had to return to agriculture. His first volunteers were kids from the neighborhood, and he began teaching hands-on gardening so more and more people could grow their own food.  Over time, he travelled around the country and then the world, teaching people how to grow food in abandoned buildings, on city lots, on porches and rooftops.
Why I like it:
This slim book provides readers with an example of a person who carries through on his idea to improve his community.  He didn't just throw money at the problem, but worked with the neighborhood to improve the food people ate. This basic idea that people everywhere deserve fresh food is carried through the entire book, and is rarely, if ever explored in books for young readers. Beginning with one city block, he started a movement that brought visitors from around the world. What a great opportunity for compare and contrast conversations about other sports figures.
Interesting tidbit:
Jacqueline Briggs Martin wrote another book (The Green Truck Garden Giveaway) about urban gardening in which two people drive around, giving away seeds and gardening supplies to help people start gardening.  Clearly the author's love of gardening in general and appreciation for urban gardening specifically shines through in her newest book!
"I'd give this book to…"
Any middle grade student who has an interest in sports figures or African American heroes.
Memorable quote:
"…fresh vegetables / were as scarce in the city / as trout in the desert." 

Contributed by Beth Gerall, NoveList Creative Content Supervisor, who has more than 18 years of library experience, mostly as a public school teacher-librarian. An avid reader, she served on the 2008 USBBY Outstanding International Books Committee and also on ALA's Notable Children's Books Committee (2010, 2011).