potatoI loved this elegantly simple story of how King Frederick the Great of Prussia convinced his subjects to start planting and eating potatoes. The language is simple and direct. “There was once a king called Fritz. One day he heard about a new wonder plant from South America: the potato.”

I also loved that the author is transparent about the difficulty of telling old stories like this. The final page reads, “This story may be a myth. But to this day, people honor King Fritz by putting potatoes on his grave.”

The illustrations are made of photos of potatoes and colorful potato prints. Perfect! This would be a fun book to pair with a potato printing activity, and the book itself would provide lots of inspiration.

This story was published originally in Germany. Thank goodness it, like the potato, made it across the Atlantic Ocean!

The Potato King, by Christoph Niemann. Owlkids: 2015




A Fine Dessert has such a simple but absolutely perfect structure! It begins with four spreads showing a girl in 1710 working with an adult to acquire the ingredients, make, and eat a blackberry fool. Those four spreads are repeated four times, each set in a different century.

The repetition invites–demands!–comparing and contrasting the experiences of all the children.  Where did the blackberries and cream come from? How did they whip the cream? How did they cool it? What did they eat for dinner before dessert? Who sat at the table? What did they wear?

To top things off, there’s a recipe for blackberry fool in the back, and the end papers are painted–gorgeously!–with blackberry juice.

This is a book my kids and I spent a long time bent over. Beautiful!

(And just for fun, the illustrator, Sophie Blackall, admits here to a mistake she didn’t know she was making in the illustrations. Did you catch it? I didn’t, and I lived in California for years.)

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Schwartz & Wade: 2015.