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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sweets to the Sweet! Little Sweet Potato by Amy Beth Bloom


ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A LITTLE SWEET POTATO WHO LIVED IN A GARDEN PATCH WHERE THE EARTH WAS RICH AND BROWN AND THE AIR SMELLED SWEET AND SPICY.

Life is good for Little Sweet Potato in his home patch, until an earthquake shakes things up and he finds himself bouncing over the fence and right into terra incognita.

Sensing that the middle of the road is not a good place, unless your goal in life is to be a mashed sweet potato, the little tuber sets out to locate a better place to put down roots. Ah, there's a patch of green growing things just ahead.

It's a carrot patch. Reasoning that other root veggies will be welcoming, Little Sweet Potato hopes he can plant himself with them. But no!

"WE THINK NOT!

YOU'RE LUMPY, DUMPY...AND WE HAVE TO SAY IT...

YOU'RE BUMPY! YOU DON'T BELONG!" the carrots shout, pointedly.

A proud crowd of satin-skinned purple eggplants look down their smooth noses at Little Sweet Potato and tell him to scram! A planting of flowers are not so sweet either.

It's a jungle out there!

Poor Little Sweet Potato. Being lumpy is his thing. He can't change who he is to fit in with flowers, either, so he sadly continues her search for a better patch. Rejection is everywhere until he finally hears a welcoming voice.

"HEY, YOU! LITTLE SWEET POTATO!

YEAH, YOU! BUMPY, BUMPALICIOUS! YOU'RE SWEET!" called a big potato from a big patch.

"I'M HOME?" sighs the relieved little tuber.

"IT'S NOT ALL MULCH AND SUNSHINE OUT THERE," agrees the big yam.

Little Sweet Potato finds that this garden is a roomy patch with a place for all varieties, even egalitarian eggplants and kindly carrots, and happily plants herself in a new patch. Life is again sweet, in Amy Beth Bloom's Little Sweet Potato (Katherine Tegen Books, 2013), a veggie tale with a gentle message of the virtues of savoring the differences between us all. Illustrator Noah Z. Jones obviously has fun with his sly portrayals of conceited carrots, supercilious zucchini, cliquish grapes, and egocentric eggplants, all social types that even primary readers may well recognize among their own personal patches.

Publishers Weekly points out that "the ending has just enough drollery to leaven the story‚Äôs didactic message about diversity."  And Kirkus Reviews writes. "A tale of rejection and acceptance with echoes of "The Ugly Duckling." Not bad reviews for a little side dish root veggie.

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