[Nonfiction Wednesday] On Cultivating Greens and Saving A Community in “The Good Garden” by Katie Smith Milway and Sylvie Daigneault

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

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Last week, I shared One Hen: How One Small Loan Made A Big Difference. I thought I might as well follow it through with another book from the CitizenKid collection of books “that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.”


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The Good Garden: How One Family Went From Hunger To Having Enough

Written by: Katie Smith Milway Illustrated by: Sylvie Daigneault
Published by: Kids Can Press, 2010 ISBN: 1554534887 (ISBN13: 9781554534883) Book Awards: Winner of the 2014 DeBary Outstanding Children’s Science Book Awards (Older Readers)
Borrowed a copy from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This story is drawn from the life story of Honduran farmer-trainer Elias Sanchez. Katie Smith Milway has published a biography of Sanchez’s life in 1994 which she then re-crafted for children in this book. However, rather than focus on the life of Elias (depicted as Don Pedro Morales in this story), Milway shifted perspectives by highlighting the narrative of the Duartes who are also based on the real life story of a campesino family living in the Honduras hills.

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While this is a text-heavy story targeted perhaps to older readers, there is a lilting, lyrical quality to the narrative that was very neatly divided into themed chapters with catchy titles and awe-inspiring art. It is the first time that I am reading a book illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault and I am immediately turned into a fan.

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Both author and illustrator managed to communicate quite eloquently and in such a moving fashion the family’s apprehension and the seeds of hope that have been planted by the presence of Don Pedro, the teacher who taught the community how to “feed the soil and make it good again.” Similar to One Hen, this is a beautiful story of hope and transformation, of resourcefulness and self-efficacy.

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Once again, teachers would be happy to note that there is a very detailed Afterword that include extensive information about the real individuals from whom this story was based. It also contains relevant information about what young readers can do to help. Here is a downloadable Teaching Guide created by the publisher for teacher use in the classroom.

While I was reading a book, I was also reminded of the picturebook biographies of Wangari Maathai. It would be good to pair this book with the following titles:

Last week, I shared a Ted Talk by Katie Smith Milway. This week, here is a youtube clip of the author talking about the importance of educating children about global problems. Enjoy!

4 Comments on [Nonfiction Wednesday] On Cultivating Greens and Saving A Community in “The Good Garden” by Katie Smith Milway and Sylvie Daigneault

  1. This looks good, Myra, and thanks for the pairing ideas, too. I know those two books, but this one about the garden is new to me. Just like Ada’s Violin, one of the books I shared today, learning to figure out how to help with a big problem is to be admired, isn’t it? Thanks. Hope your extended stay in Germany continues well!

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  2. What a powerful story. I always appreciate it when authors include detailed information on the source material, it’s very helpful when using the story with a class. Those illustrations are stunning. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I think this is a great topic that is really starting to come to light to more and more students. Great picture book for older readers. The illustrations look wonderful, too!

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  4. Great review! This sounds like a meaningful book! 🙂

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