June 13, 2008

Make a day of visiting the market and library

Everyone who lives in the valley knows that one of the best things about our home is the abundance of locally grown produce.

Everyone who lives in the valley knows that one of the best things about our home is the abundance of locally grown produce.

For an enjoyable outing with children, stroll through the Modesto Certified Farmers Market on a Thursday or Saturday morning, then go next door to the library to read one of these related books.

"Yum! Yum!! Delicious Nursery Rhymes," illustrated by Joanne Fitzgerald (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $18.99), is a clever collection of Mother Goose rhymes centered around a visit to an outdoor market. Beginning with "This little piggy went to market," children can follow the story through the lovely pastel illustrations as piggy shops and shops and finally throws a party for family and friends.

A more pragmatic approach to farmers markets is found in "Apple Farmer Annie," by Monica Wellington" (Puffin, $5.99). A simple, direct narrative explains how Annie harvests her apple crop, makes cider, applesauce and baked goods, then sells these products and the "most beautiful" of the fresh apples at the farmers market in the city. Cheerful illustrations and several apple-related recipes complete the book.

Lois Ehlert has written and illustrated several outstanding picture books centered on fruits and vegetables. My favorite is "Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z" (Voyager, $7). Stunning watercolor collages depict 75 different foods, grouped alphabetically.

Take this book to the market with you and let the kids match the pictures to the produce. You are sure to bring home something new to try.

Another popular choice is "Growing Vegetable Soup" (Voyager, $7). The simple text narrates how a father and child plant a garden, harvest their crop and make soup with the fruits of their labor. Ehlert outdoes herself with the ultrabright colors she uses to illustrate her story.

The most recent of Ehlert's produce-related books takes place at the farmers market. In "Wag a Tail" (Harcourt, $16), she uses very few words to tell the tale of a group of dogs, all Bow Wow School graduates, who are on an outing with their people. At the farmers market, the humans shop while the dogs greet one another and show off their sitting and leash walking skills. But when Spike breaks free and upends a basket of goods, the group adjourns to the dog park, where it can take a break from good manners.

An author's note describes Ehlert's method of creating the boldly colored and highly textured illustrations that are the heart of this exuberant book.

Susan Cassidy is a children's librarian with the Stanislaus County Library.

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