This German import recounts the intriguing legend surrounding Frederick the Great’s potato legislation.
In the versatile vegetable recently transported from South America, Fritz (as he is familiarly called here) sees a weapon to prevent famine in Prussia. He decrees that everyone should plant this crop; his citizens are not convinced. Niemann’s decision to utilize potato prints and photographs of the tuber against a clean white background makes this account a beautifully unified narrative accessible to a range of ages. The thoughtful design extends to the palette of both image and type—the king’s words and silhouette are both rendered in red, for instance. Controlled pacing builds suspense. A wordless, crowded spread of textured, blue soldiers and cannons contrasts with the previously spare compositions during which listeners learn, “He ordered his solders to march to the village….” To do what? Force-feed villagers? Imprison abstainers? No, rather, this clever king tries reverse psychology: “…and guard the potato field.” Since the forbidden is irresistible, naturally the people creep in at night to steal the royal plants for their own fields. This understated, visually delightful tale of how a humble vegetable found its way into the hearts and kitchens of a community will surely entertain young readers and move them to printmaking.
Witty and provocative, the tale provides food for thought in behavior management and governance as well as a great story. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)