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Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table (Food Heroes #1)
Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrations by Shabazz Larkin, afterword by Will Allen


Will Allen is no ordinary farmer. A former basketball star, he’s as tall as his truck, and he can hold a cabbage, or a basketball, in one hand. But what is most special about Farmer Will is that he can see what others can’t see. When he looked at an abandoned city lot he saw a huge table, big enough to feed the whole world. No space, no problem. Poor soil, there’s a solution. Need help, found it. Farmer Will is a genius in solving problems. In 2008, the MacArthur Foundation named him one.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin, author of the Caldecott winner, Snowflake Bentley, tells the inspiring story of an innovator, educator, and community builder. Combined with artist Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s striking artwork, readers will share Will Allen’s optimism and determination to bring good food to every table.


Jacqueline Briggs Martin is the author of Snowflake Bentley, winner of the Caldecott Medal. Her last book,The Chiru of High Tibet, was named “Best Book of 2010″ by Smithsonian Magazine and Kirkus Review. Other notable mentions include ALA Notables, a Golden Kite Honor Award, Lupine Awards from the Maine Library Association, and four inclusions on the Blue Ribbon List of the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. She has taught creative writing at Hamline College and University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She grew up on a farm in Maine and now lives in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. Learn more about Jackie at See Jacqueline Briggs Martin’s other “Food Heroes” books: Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious and Chef Roy Choi and The Street Food Remix

Shabazz Larkin is a film maker, fine artist, and a creative director in advertising. He is also a founder of the Creative School of Thought, a group of artists that produce content for public art and social change. A native of Virginia, he lives in New York City. This is his first book for children.


* 2014 Notable Children’s Book, American Library Association
* “Best Books 2013 Nonfiction,” School Library Journal
* “100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2013,” New York Public Library
* “Top 10 Sustainability Title 2013,” Booklist
* “Top 10 Crafts & Gardening Title for Youth,” Booklist
* “15 Books For Future Foodies,” Food Tank: The Food Think Tank

“This engaging introduction to the work of Will Allen and his organization, Growing Power, should stimulate interest in gardening in schools, homes, and communities… Larkin’s energetic illustrations reflect both hard work outdoors and the delicious results on a table loaded with good food.”-- Starred review, Booklist

“The idea of farming as a community builder…comes across clearly in the book.” -- Starred” review, School Library Journal

“A timely topic for eco-minded youngsters and future agriculturalists.” -- ”Best Books 2013 Nonfiction,” School Library Journal

“Will Allen can see / what others can’t see. / When he sees kids, he sees farmers.” Martin begins and ends with this positive premise. In between, she sketches salient events that stoked Allen’s commitment to empowering people to grow their own food. Raised in a food-loving family that grew and shared its own, Will eschewed weeding and picking for college and a move to Belgium to play pro basketball, where he continued gardening on the side. He brought an acumen for growing veggies home to Milwaukee and saw that “fresh vegetables / were as scarce in the city / as trout in the desert.” Will bought a polluted city lot and created compost from food waste, aided by red wiggler worms. He taught kids and teens to farm and traveled the world with his message. Martin’s verse text, laced with word bursts in ebullient display type, engages both readers and listeners. In his picture-book debut, Larkin provides mixed-media cityscapes that, eventually, brim with the fruits of Allen’s labor and match Will’s exuberance and spirit of community.
From the small press Readers To Eaters, this worthy collaboration reveals how one man’s vision of food for all has inspired an amazing life of service. -- Kirkus Reviews

“This lively introduction to Will Allen’s groundbreaking work (for which he’s received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant) features a buoyant narrative by Jacqueline Briggs Martin set against Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s energetic illustrations. It’s impossible not to be inspired by their account of the creativity of Will’s venture and the hope inherent in its success.” -- Cooperative Children’s Book Center, “Recommended Book of the Week”

“The book is a beautiful tribute not just to its hero Will Allen but also to the right of every child to have access to good, healthy, cheap food. The ultimate picture book about muncha muncha muncha…While we talk about the rise in obesity levels in the United States, it just makes sense to talk about how economics affect access to healthy alternatives. And part of what makes Farmer Will Allen such a good story is that it draws that connection without getting anywhere near a soapbox…Fun and informative by turns, raise a carrot or cabbage in honor of this awesome dude and his equally awesome tale.” -- Betsy Bird, School Library Journal’s Fuse #8 Blog, Senior Children’s Librarian, NYPL The New York Public Library

“Rating: OUTSTANDING. Will Allen deserves this compelling biography so aptly rendered by author Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Snowflake Bentley; Houghton, 1993) and illustrator Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s ink and pen artistry…The use of questions (e.g., “But how could Will farm in the middle of pavement and parking lots?”) and of large colorful fonts to emphasize key phrases (e.g., Fish. Water. Sprouts. Farm Machine) provide a conversational tone that is further brought to life by thoughtful and vibrant illustrations of multicultural communities and the nutritious foods they are growing. An afterword from Allen about good food and good farming, an author’s note about the power of one person to affect so much change, and a current, concise list of resources finish off this inspiring story. Readers to Eaters Books has another winning title on their hands. -- Bayviews, Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California

[H]  Readers to Eaters  /  September 10, 2013

0.4" H x 10.9" L x 8.2" W (0.85 lbs) 32 pages

[P]  Readers to Eaters  /  February 09, 2016

0.15" H x 10.82" L x 8.1" W (0.3 lbs) 32 pages