NONFICTION

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jan. 2020. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062430151.
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PreS-Gr 3–George Washington Carver is best known as an agricultural expert who discovered versatile uses for the peanut. This story focuses on his first garden. Hidden beneath the trees where no one could tease or belittle him, Carver studied nature and the “more he experimented, the more he learned.” The narrative starts in 1921 with Carver addressing Congress on the importance of the peanut and impressing an audience of white men at a time when “African-Americans were...treated as second-class citizens.” Readers are then transported back to 1874, to the Missouri farm where Carver was born into slavery, and then to the end of slavery and the planting of his first garden. The narrative then focuses on Carver’s determined search for education and finally his work as a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute. The beautiful oil on board illustrations show the wonder of young Carver as he contemplates the petals on a flower or the first green sprouts of spring. Barretta’s prose, combined with Morrison’s art, fully illuminates the depth of Carter’s considerable contributions to the science of agriculture, the farming community, and racial equality. Back matter includes a time line of Carver’s life, a bibliography, and suggestions for further reading.
VERDICT A well-thought-out biography that highlights a different side of Carver and will be a first purchase for school and public library collections.

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