Full of Beans: Henry Ford Grows a Car

Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek. Oct. 2019. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781629796390.
Gr 2-5–Growing up on a Michigan farm, Henry Ford was aware of the needs and challenges of the American farmer, especially after the Great Depression. Since Ford hated waste, he tried to find a way to integrate crops into the manufacturing process. Ford and his employee, chemist Robert Boyer, eventually discovered the soybean’s unlimited potential. Ford’s company created new soybean products such as paint, plastics, fabric, and flour. The arrival of World War II interrupted plans for mass production as factories were repurposed for airplane assembly. Nevertheless, this intriguing idea made a long-lasting impact on the agricultural industry as soybeans became the second-largest crop in the country. Ford’s personality is brought to life through lively and cheerful illustrations in greens, blues, and yellows. Details such as Ford doing pull-ups (it helped him think) and bouncing on a plastic panel to test its strength add humor to the story. Extensive back matter features photographs of Ford and the Model T, a reproduction of a menu from Ford’s exhibit at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair which is either impressive (soybean biscuits with soybean butter) or intimidating (celery stuffed with soybean cheese), and recipes for soybean crackers and DIY soybean plastic.
VERDICT Fun and informative for fans of American history and innovation, this book shares the story of Ford’s lesser-known soybean pursuits.

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