Food fundamentals, branching into provocative digressions.
The cover will throw readers a little, with its psychedelic colors but rather picture-book artwork, for the narrative is crafted for middle graders. It is a thoughtful tour of food, starting with the mind-blowing results of a compilation of surveys: broccoli grows on trees, lettuce has more protein than peanuts, pasta is made from meat. So the authors set a solid foundation, taking nothing for granted. They start with the evolution of agriculture and husbandry, with timelines and sidebar summations. Then come farm equipment and the step-by-step progress in farming technology. Aided by a good selection of photographs, gender and nationality become a part of the picture, as well as diversity of foodstuffs. They proceed from this base to address some of the problems, pitfalls, and ethical dilemmas that have befallen agriculture: factory farms; depletion of stocks; the difference between hybrids and genetically modified organisms, plus a balanced look at the pros and cons of GMOs; the role of branding and marketing; and environmental issues, including fishing dead zones and soil corruption. The authors bring a knack for concision to the work, particularly with regard to problematical everyday foods (trans fats, sugar, processed foods), though the busy, bright graphics sometimes make it hard to focus.
Food is not just elemental; it is remarkable, and this effort does it justice. (glossary, further reading, selected sources, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)