Hold the Spuds! The Potato King by Christoph Niemann
THERE WAS ONCE A KING NAMED FRITZ.
HE HEARD ABOUT A NEW WONDER PLANT FROM SOUTH AMERICA: THE POTATO.
King Frederick II of Prussia wanted to be the sort of ruler who helped his people. So, when he heard about the latest hot new food, potatoes, he thought introducing them to his people would make him popular. He set up a trial program in a chosen village and promoted the potato to the peasant farmers in person.
King Fritz, as his subjects called him behind his back, had heard good things about the potato: it was a sustaining tuber that could be stored for long periods in a cool place and helped prevent disease among sailors. What's not to like?
THE PEOPLE DIDN'T LIKE TO BE TOLD WHAT TO EAT.
Who knew Prussians were picky eaters?
His subjects refused to eat the things. They pointed out that they had no smell and almost no taste. Even their dogs turned up their noses at the spuds, the people reported. The monarch's plan was on the fritz.
The King's crop was a flop.
Now the King could have ordered his subjects to eat the potatoes--or else! But Fritz didn't want to be that sort of monarch. So he came up with a crafty plan.
HE ORDERED HIS SOLDIERS TO GUARD THE POTATO FIELD.
Hey! Wait! the villagers thought. If King Fritz was guarding this crop, those potatoes must be something special. Just as the King had predicted, the peasants began to purloin the potatoes by night and plant them covertly in their own gardens, and they soon discovered that sizzled up with some *schmaltz, a shake of *salz, and a tasty bit of *wurst, potatoes made pretty fine provender.
Prussian King Fritz was a success as a progressive ruler; his subjects even nicknamed him Der Kartoffenkoenig, the Potato King. And Germans have been putting away potatoes ever since.
TO THIS DAY, PEOPLE HONOR KING FRITZ BY PUTTING POTATOES ON HIS GRAVE.
Christoph Niemann's The Potato King (OwlKids Books, 2015) is a tasty bit of food fact and folklore that celebrates good King Fritz and the history of one of the world's favorite foods. Niemann's narrative is lean and salty, and his artwork--consisting of a photo of a spud and potato-printed king, soldiers, cannons, horses, peasants, potato plants, and cookpots--is hilarious, apropos for a spuds story, and serves to inspire an early grade session of potato printing as well, A perfect addition to the reading menu for nutrition or gardening units, this one makes a great read-aloud, laugh-aloud for preschoolers, and an easy go for beginning readers. Potatoes seem to inspire wordplay, especially among reviewers: "A bushel of laughs," puns Publisher's Weekly in their starred review, and Kirkus Reviews sagely adds, "Witty and provocative, the tale provides food for thought in behavior management and governance as well as a great story."
*rendered fat, salt, sausage