There’s No Such Thing as Vegetables

Holt. Feb. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250867841.
Gr 1-3–Chester’s mom wants him to get some vegetables from the community garden for a salad. This turns out to be a tricky task when each so-called vegetable he finds is sassy and unhelpful, explaining why it is not what he is seeking. Eggplant is a fruit, carrot and potato are roots, kale is a leaf, broccoli is a flower. Finally, the kale breaks it to him—there is no such thing as a vegetable. After hearing about the jobs of the fruits, flowers, roots, and leaves, not to mention how angry the beet is at having its sugar content questioned, a defeated Chester asks, “If there is no such thing as vegetables, why do people call you vegetables?” The crux of the book arrives at last. The foodstuffs question the reality of human-made categories: money, countries, states, language—and vegetables. Mind blown, Chester tells them he’s going to have a sandwich for lunch instead of a salad. On the final page there is Lukoff’s thought-provoking note about social constructs surrounding categories. Tsurumi’s excellent illustrations give Chester and the myriad vegetables individual personalities, including some wonderfully amusing facial expressions. Her use of movement, perspective, color, and white space help move the mash-up of game-changing facts plugged awkwardly into cartoon-style storytelling forward. The almost exclusive use of speech balloons occasionally crowds the page, simply because there are so many speaking parts, but it is successful overall. The humans depicted have a variety of skin tones.
VERDICT The mixed bag doesn’t diminish the intriguing ideas, despite the somewhat forced format.

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