Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Ripe with puns, this tale turns on the question.
In word bubbles, an off-page child converses with a bevy of colorful, anthropomorphized foodstuffs while putting the produce away: “How’s everyone doing?” Lemon’s “Full of zest.” Strawberry says, “I was jammed in that bag.” When the tomato tries to climb into the fruit bowl, everyone questions his right. Tomato then lectures those assembled: Fruits develop from flowers, while veggies might be leaves, stems (asparagus), petals (artichokes, anyone?), or roots. He produces a wacky X-ray showing not only his seeds, but the bones of his skinny arms and legs. Each fruit and vegetable in Hoffmann’s digitally composed, hand-lettered gouache pictures sports simple facial features and sticklike limbs. The male tomato and “Old Man Produce”—a wizened prune with bushy gray brows—are explicitly gendered, while a lemon and pepper have full lips and eyelashes, implying they are female. The Old Man delivers a rambling, Zen-like speech that muddies the already-sketchy science. With their new knowledge, a pepper, bean, eggplant, cuke, avocado, snow pea, and yellow squash line up to climb the fruit bowl’s ladder. Hoffmann’s premise is a bit shaky. Some veggies are typically unrefrigerated (think potatoes), some fruits are regularly kept chilled, and many of those newly ensconced denizens of this fruit bowl (from peppers to squash) keep better in the fridge.
Inessential. (Picture book. 4-6)