About the Holiday
National Farmers Day events have taken place across the country since the 1800s, and these days events are held on different dates in different towns throughout the fall. The holiday celebrates the hardworking farmers who grow and raise the food that fills our grocery stores, farm markets, and tables. Beyond food, farmers contribute to our economy across industries.
Thanks to Quarto Knows for sending me a copy of The Farm That Feeds Us for review consideration. I used a digital copy of The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids for my review. All opinions on the books are my own.
Introducing Quarto Classroom
New this year, Quarto Classroom is a free video library on YouTube of expert authors using their books to teach everything from math to arts & crafts to social emotional learning. There are videos and activity sheets for every age, which can be used as supplements to your normal school curriculum—plus, you to get to know some pretty cool authors! Perfect to enhance virtual schooling and homeschooling, the videos and materials are exciting ways to engage your kids in hands-on learning. Today, I’m reviewing two books that approach science in different ways. The first covers the science of organic farming, and the second gets kids involved in chemistry experiments in their own kitchen. You can find all the available videos on various topics at Quarto Classroom.
The Farm That Feeds Us: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm
Written by Nancy Castaldo | Illustrated by Ginnie Hsu
This encyclopedic beauty takes readers to an organic family farm, where they spend a year learning about various types of farms and then get a close-up look at the activities and transformations that take place from season to season. In Spring, the farmer is up before the birds to feed the animals and mild the cows and goats. The chicken coop is busy as the kids feed the chickens and rooster and collect eggs. Some chickens are “broody” today—sitting on their eggs until they hatch. What kind of chickens are there? This coop is home to Hamburg, Rhode Island Red, Ameraucana, Brahma, Plymouth Rock, and Leghorn, which can lay “around 280–300 eggs per year.”
Out in the orchard among the apple, cherry, pear, and plum trees, the bee hives are being checked. In the fields, the farmer is tilling the soil to plant lettuce, carrots, beans, radishes, beets, and peas. You can see many kinds of equipment and machinery farmers use here. Some crops love the cool weather of early spring, so workers are already harvesting the peas, lettuces and greens, asparagus, and radishes. Then it’s off to the farm market to sell the food to eager customers.
With temperatures getting warmer, it’s time to sheer the sheep. Lambs are born now too. You can see and learn about six breeds of sheep that are found around the world. Summer brings thousands of strawberries, raspberries, and cherries in the farm’s pick-your-own fields. Summer also means corn, which comes in many colors and is used for different purposes, from feeding people and livestock to making fuel. “Some varieties of corn have hears filled with kernels that look like multi-colored gems. Come take a look!
Twice a day the cows are milked. “On some industrial farms, cows are kept in pens and are bred to produce unnaturally high volumes of milk. On this organic, family farm, the cows are free to roam around” pesticide-free fields. Without antibiotics or hormones to increase milk production, their milk is “healthier for people to drink.” You can learn about five distinct breeds of cows here too.
It’s been an exciting time for the farmers! This weekend was the county fair, where “farmers come from all over the county to show off their produce and livestock.” Come take a look at all the exhibits! Then a local chef visits, eager to learn about the fresh produce and heirloom varieties available. “Squash blossoms, tomatoes, and radishes are picked and packed for the chef to take back to the kitchen for tonight’s menu.” You can also learn about food distribution and why eating local is healthier and more delicious.
While large farms often use manmade pesticides to thwart insects and other pests, “organic farms use many different methods, including crop rotation, crop isolation, and growing other plants nearby that ward off pests.” Take a look at how these methods work.
Autumn brings pumpkins—in so many varieties! Orange, white, and green; warty, smooth, and tiny, each pumpkin has its own use and flavor. In the farmhouse kitchen, freshly picked fruit and vegetables are becoming jams, pies, sauces, and chutneys. In preparation for winter, the fields must be “put to sleep to keep the soil healthy for the spring plantings. Discover how important cover crops, mowing, and even fall grazing by the animals is to the farm’s health.
While no crops are growing during the winter, that doesn’t mean things slow down on the farm. Now is the time when repairs and cleaning are done, the apple trees are pruned, and logs are split for the woodstove. The bee hives are also wrapped to keep them warm. As the snow falls, the family feeds the animals in the barn and then gathers around and chooses the seeds they want to plant in the spring.
A bread recipe, a discussion on how we can make a difference to ensure a variety of healthy food remains available, and a glossary of words used in the book close out the text.
Nancy Castaldo’s gorgeous and informative book, written in a lyrical, conversational style and full of fascinating details about the life of a farm and its crops and animals will entice readers to learn more about their local farms, the food grown there, and shopping at farmers markets.
Ginnie Hsu’s bright and homey illustrations will enchant readers of all ages as they discover realistic depictions of farm equipment, planting methods, crops, animals, and the beauty and intricacies of a small farm. Two-page spreads allow for detailed and panoramic views of the always-changing scenery and activities that make a farm such an exciting and intriguing place.
Whether you’re a teacher, homeschooler, or gardener; love farms; or are a proponent of an organic lifestyle, The Farm That Feeds Us would be an excellent accompaniment to science, social studies, and environmental lessons. The book offers untold opportunities to spark further research into the topics presented and ideas for classroom or home gardens. It is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public libraries.
Ages 7 – 11
Words & Pictures, Quarto Knows, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711242531
Discover more about Nancy Castaldo and her books on her website
To learn more about Ginnie Hsu and view a portfolio of her art, visit her website.
You can find The Farm That Feeds Us at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million
To support your local independent bookstore, order from
The Farm That Feeds Us Quarto Classroom Video
You can visit with Nancy Castaldo as she reads from her book and talks about food from her local farms as well as about food you may find in your own pantry, clothing hanging in your closet, and other items in your house and the farms where they came from. Nancy invites kids to go on a scavenger hunt in their classroom or home to discover how many things we eat and use come from farms. You can find her video and download a teachers’ guide on the Quarto Classroom website under Science.
The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids
By Liz Lee Heinecke | Illustrated by Kelly Anne Dalton | Photography by Amber Procaccini Photography
Replicating the experiments of twenty-five of the world’s most influential scientists from 1200 BCE to 1975 will give children and young people an appreciation for the long history and vast influence of chemistry since the beginning of time. Along with each experiment, readers learn about the scientists, background on their work, and “where you can still find it used or reflected in today’s world.”
First up is Tapputi-Belatikallim—a woman and the first recorded chemist, who lived in ancient Mesopotamia over 3200 years ago. Her position within the royal household was that of fragrance preparer, an important role as scents were “believed to transcend the physical world to reach their gods, who would be pleased by their sacrifice.” Her recipe “includes the first description of a distillation apparatus ever recorded and a number of her methods are still used today….” With a slow cooker or pot, fresh or dried lemon, herbs, or flowers, and other common kitchen tools, readers can create their own fragrance. Clear photographs show budding chemists the steps to success.
What would carbonated-drink fans do without their sparkling bubbles? Fortunately, because of Joseph Priestley’s work in 1767, they’ll never need to know. With baking soda and vinegar, young scientists can go beyond the volcano and create their own carbonated water. They’ll also learn more about this man who was ahead of his time in many ways. Don’t put the vinegar away too soon! With the next experiment, kids can turn a pad of steel wool into a powdery rust with oxidation—just like Antoine Lavoisier.
Can’t quite get your head around the periodic table? With this experiment you can make your own and really see what’s up with all of those protons and neutrons! Who came up with the periodic table? That would be Dmitri Mendeleev, who legend has it dreamed up the format in…well…a dream. Can washing dishes ever be more than a chore? For Agnes Pockels, born in 1862, it led to a revelation about surface tension and how various soaps and other materials could disturb it. Get out a plate, some water, milk, food coloring, oil, and other ingredients and get to work!
How do you smell? I mean…how well can you smell? In 1991 Dr. Linda Buck discovered “a group of genes that no one had ever seen before. These genes coded for a group of 350 smell receptors that work in combination to detect thousands of different odors. “In 2004 Linda and her colleague Richard Axel won the Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of odorant receptors….” With the experiment here, you and your family can discover how sensitive your nose is by blind-testing a variety of objects.
The next time your teacher, mom, or dad sees you using your phone in class, it might be because you’re doing Raychelle Burks’ colorimetric sensors experiment. With an app you can turn your phone into a spectrometer to test RGB ratings for a series of diluted liquids. Burks’ current research is focused on designing “sensing systems that can identify chemical clues tied to crime.” Who knows—you may find yourself working as a CSI after getting hooked by the science behind this fascinating experiment.
Along the way, young scientists can make soap, create chemical batteries, work with synthetic dyes, make lava lamps to test temperature and chemical reactions, do elemental extraction, discover the pH scale, learn about chromatography, extract organic oils, make crystals, extract medicinal compounds from aloe, and take part in many more educational and fun experiments. A glossary, the periodic table, and a list of resources and references follows the text.
Prior to each experiment, readers learn about each chemist through Kitchen Pantry Scientist Liz Lee Heinecke’s lively biographies that spotlight stories from the scientist’s childhood, family life, education, early work, and influence on the world at large.
Kelly Anne Dalton’s engaging and vivid illustrated portraits of each chemist introduce each experiment and set the scientist in her or his time period.
A superb reference and resource for schools, homeschooling, today’s virtual schooling as well as for kids who just like to tinker (like many of the scientists highlighted), Chemistry for Kids would be a favorite go-to book for science lessons and free time and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections. The book would also make an excellent gift.
Ages 7 – 12
Quarry Books/QuartoKnows, 2020 | ISBN 978-1631598302
To learn more about Liz Lee Heinecke, her books, and her work, visit her website The Kitchen Pantry Scientist.
Discover more about Kelly Anne Dalton, her books, and her art on her website.
Chemistry for Kids Quarto Classroom Video
Liz Lee Heinecke invites you into her kitchen to talk about her book and hear the story of Agnus Pockles. Following the reading she takes kids step-by-step through Agnus’s experiment on surface tension, using milk and food coloring to explain how this phenomenon works. She then shows how detergents break surface tension with dramatic results. You can find Liz’s video and download a teachers’ guide at the Quarto Classroom website under Science.
You can find Chemistry for Kids at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million
To support your local independent bookstore, order from
Picture Book Review