When Ms. Garcia’s students emulate Thomas Jefferson and his “first peas to the table” contest, will it bring out the best or the worst in two friends?
With Jefferson’s garden as a model for their own class plot, Ms. Garcia’s students start learning about his agricultural experiments as they prepare to participate in their own contest. Begun by Jefferson and his friends, the neighborly challenge allowed the winner to present his bowl of peas at a dinner. Twenty seeds and a small pot allow the students to get a head start on their gardening at home. Meanwhile, at school, they make garden journals, learn about composting and divide their garden up into three sections—roots, fruits and leaves. Narrator Maya and her friend Shakayla take the competition especially seriously, but the two have very different ideas and methods for growing their peas. Grigsby’s narrative flows well and strikes a good balance among Maya’s account, pea/gardening facts, the scientific method and a history lesson. Tadgell’s watercolors support this, using both full-page spreads and smaller, inset illustrations of the racially diverse students and their garden, as well as some from Jefferson’s day. The pea vines are appropriately twisty, while the pea blossoms exhibit their trademark paper-like texture.
History, science and a guidance lesson all rolled into one, this could surely be the spark for many a school garden. (Picture book. 6-10)