Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat

S. & S./Beach Lane. Jan. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534460072.
PreS-Gr 3–This picture book biography profiles produce pioneer Frieda Caplan (1923–2020). Caplan, the daughter of Russian immigrants, was the first woman in the United States to own and operate a wholesale produce business. The narrative begins at the Seventh Street produce market in Los Angeles in the 1960s, where Caplan noticed the monotony in what restaurants, stores, and stands sold to consumers. Despite the skepticism of her colleagues, she introduced fresh mushrooms, earning her the moniker “the Mushroom Queen.” Her gradual success with mushrooms led her to open her own market stall, where she sold other foods considered unpopular and exotic, like kiwis. Caplan didn’t love everything she tried, but when she chose to back something she gave it her all. As her reputation grew, she began to advise farmers and restaurant chefs. She gave interviews to journalists forecasting produce trends and eventually hired her own daughters to help with the family business. Potter’s illustrations are thoughtfully painted and showcase the subtle changes in clothing throughout the decades. However, they don’t necessarily have the shelf appeal that will motivate a child to choose this book for an independent read. On most spreads, the date that Caplan introduced a new fruit or veggie to the market is listed underneath the drawing with the product name. The text simply relays the basic facts of Caplan’s life without connecting the dots. The background information featured at the end of the narrative would have made for welcome additions to enliven the story.
VERDICT A straightforward picture book biography that missed the opportunity to elevate the narrative. Not recommended.

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