From School Library Journal
K-Gr 3–In this story set in the early 1900s, African-American elementary-school students Sally and her classmates get scientific lessons from Dr. George Washington Carver, who arrives in a “funny-looking wagon” pulled by an old mule, his “movable school.” Everyone in the small Alabama town has heard of the famous plant scientist, however, and pays attention to what he has to say. The setting seems slightly idealized. The characters look healthy and well-dressed, although they do talk about the difficulties of farming land depleted by years of growing cotton. The focus of the story is on Carver teaching the children about plants though, not economic conditions, so Tadgell's sunny color palette, rich with earth tones, is appropriate. Sally, in a bright red dress and white pinafore, stands out in the gardening spreads. The watercolor illustrations include many humorous asides of children acting like children–making horrified faces as they taste Dr. Carver's menu of “chicken” made from peanuts and wild-weed salad, or being silly with friends when they are supposed to be listening. Scientific and historical information is well-presented through the gentle text and lighthearted illustrations. Teachers will find many uses for this appealing book.Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
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In this charming historical-fiction picture book, a young girl relates an educational and inspirational visit by Dr. George Washington Carver to her Alabama town. When Carver visits Sally’s school, his child-friendly explanations (“Plants, like people, need nutritious food to help them grow”) and hands-on demonstrations invite the students’ curiosity and participation, as they learn about gardening, including the importance of respecting nature, and plant a school “kitchen” garden of their own. Concepts like composting and planting are well conveyed through Sally’s descriptive, sometimes lyrical narrative, which includes fun details like a school picnic filled with Carver’s recipes, such as sweet-potato-flour bread. The colorful watercolor illustrations, featuring soft touches and historical details, depict the rural setting and expressive characters; and attractive renderings of garden flora and fauna, labeled with scientific and common-use names, decorate the endpapers. Overall, this is an enjoyable, accessible, and informative introduction to Carver’s work and philosophies as well as gardening basics. A brief endnote provides additional information on Carver. Grades 1-3. --Shelle Rosenfeld