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Potatoes on Rooftops: Farming in the City

Potatoes on Rooftops: Farming in the City

by Hadley Dyer, Michael Martchenko (Illustrator)

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From high school students to high-rise dwellers, people—including Michelle Obama—are discovering innovative ways to grow fresh, healthy, and delicious fruit and vegetables at home, in community gardens, and at school. This brisk, informative overview explains how farming in the city is not only fun, but also important for the planet. There are many ways


From high school students to high-rise dwellers, people—including Michelle Obama—are discovering innovative ways to grow fresh, healthy, and delicious fruit and vegetables at home, in community gardens, and at school. This brisk, informative overview explains how farming in the city is not only fun, but also important for the planet. There are many ways to farm in the city: a Detroit high school program teaches students to grow food and raise chickens; in Tokyo, a bank vault was converted into an underground greenhouse; in Nairobi, local youth transformed part of a slum into a garden that helps feed their families. Read about modern inventions such as futuristic pod greenhouses, food-producing wall panels, and industrial-sized composters. Short, kid-friendly descriptions and vibrant photos and illustrations keep the pace moving and the tone light. Toronto Public Health and FoodShare, two respected agencies, both have contributed to the book. Potatoes on Rooftops is the perfect book to get you thinking about how you, too, can grow food in the city.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Amy S. Hansen
Grow food in the city, save the planet. This is the message and it is not as far-fetched as it might seem to adult cynics. "Cities are sometimes called ?concrete jungles.' But imagine an urban neighborhood so lush and leafy it seems more like an actual jungle...in some cities these images are becoming real." Dyer does an excellent job of balancing the facts and figures with hands-on information to empower the reader. Yes, we can grow plants in old shoes and kiddie pools, but we can also start vertical gardens, or high-tech greenhouses, or just reclaimed empty lots. Pictures and a lively layout draw us through the different possibilities. While excellent overall, there were a couple of places I would have liked a bit more actual science. For example, at one point the author writes about reclaiming land by first growing sunflowers to pull the pollutants out of the soil. That very cool fact was just tossed off. I would love to know how the sunflowers do that. What she does do well is show the global nature of this issue, highlighting the work in Africa and South America, as well as North American urban farmers. Backmatter includes a glossary, list of resources, and index. Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
Kirkus Reviews
A manifesto advocating local microfarming as an ecological necessity in today's changing world is chock-full of fascinating information. The first part presents a reasoned, organized explanation for increasing the availability of food for the ever-growing populations of cities around the world. Much of this food, especially fruits and vegetables, can be grown, at least in part, within or near the city in individual plots, community gardens or re-purposed larger-scaled venues, leaving traditional rural farms for grains and grasses that need large tracts of land. Subsequent sections discuss ways and means by which people can create their own gardens. Dyer employs a conversational, accessible tone that speaks directly to her readers and includes practical, real-life examples that can be implemented at home, school or in the community. Facts and data come thick and fast, copiously illustrated with photographs, maps and drawings and enhanced with captions, sidebars and appropriate quotes. Boldfaced headings are worded with flair, and illustrative material is visually appealing, colorful and varied. Most young readers will probably not read it from cover to cover in one sitting but will scan it, stopping as something catches their interest. They might even decide to get out there and start digging. A work bound to provide food for thought and perhaps for the table. (preface, glossary, online resources, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)
Publishers Weekly
It’s not always easy being green in urban areas, but Dyer suggests simple projects and small behavioral changes that can help city-dwellers make their environments more natural in this colorful guidebook. Dyer points to the importance of eating locally grown and raised foods to minimize the distance between farm and plate; graphics and sidebars include statistics about global ecology, hunger, and international rates of consumption. Profiles of organizations and enterprises that have successfully turned urban wastelands into thriving oases demonstrate the power of collective efforts. Highlighting innovations in landscape architecture, shrewd use of space and materials (for example, growing lettuce in a colander), and a more complete understanding of food’s influence on the health of nations, Dyer underscores how each individual is a link in an important chain. Ages 9–12. (Nov.)
Booklist - Randall Enos
Timely, attractively designed, and inspirational. Dig in!
Science Magazine - Melissa McCartney
Dyer challenges her readers to take the environmental concepts they learn through gardening and apply them to similar conservation efforts.
Canadian Children's Book News - Sandra O'Brien
Hopefully, the book will be used to inspire young urban dwellers to start growing their own food in their backyards, on their balconies, at school or in a community garden.
January Magazine - Sienna Powers
Potatoes on Rooftops is just about the best introduction to the new food movement that one could imagine.
Mackin Books in Bloom
A timely, beautiful, and accessible book about urban gardening that just might inspire some school-based food growing.
Quill and Quire
Budding environmentalists and green thumbs will find much here to satisfy their thirst for knowledge.
Reading Today Online
Teachers interested in urban farming or starting projects for their classrooms will find this a valuable guide to share with students.
Resource Links - Carolyn Cutt
The text is very well organized and information is clearly presented under bold, highlighted titles or outlined in boxes. Each page is enhanced with informative, brightly coloured photos and drawings, and the entertaining map on the final page shows many possibilities for growing, buying and eating local foods.
Science Books and Film - Ellen R. Paterson
Very highly recommended for upper level elementary through high school; especially for multicultural curriculum in horticulture and related subjects.
Toronto Youth Food Policy Council
A great resource for people doing food literacy and garden education programming with children and youth in an urban context... Kid-friendly... gives a great overview the reasons to garden in the city and in what ways it is possible,,. Looks at farming in the city as a way to connect youth to food issues and to foster a sense of food justice in an audience that may not understand the basics of the causes of hunger and poverty... By showing concrete examples of some successful urban agriculture projects as well as the massive potential for urban agriculture in the city, this resource is extremely comprehensive without being overwhelming... Ultimately, it offers the hope of delightful and engaging green spaces in the city that have the potential to feed and empower people as well as combat a variety of climate change and sustainability issues... It would be a great introductory resource for schools not already reached by organizations... It makes important curriculum connections while fostering a social awareness within students of all different learning styles. It is also very visually engaging... I am excited to see it in use across the city in the future.
Science Books and Film
Best Books for Children 2103
Canadian Teacher Magazine - Amanda Forbes
Students are sure to love the colourful, factual and humorous nature of this book.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Grassroots efforts at sustainable agriculture are given a global perspective in this interesting look at the many ways people grow their food. From rooftop and container gardening to school gardens and community plots, Dyer discusses changes in traditional agriculture from victory gardens of heirloom crops to modern factory farming and hybrid produce. Protein-based food sources like eggs and fish are also included. Issues related to sustainability, such as greenhouse emissions, and fair-trade practices are also discussed, as are the psychological and health benefits of growing one's own food. The writing is both engaging and interesting as the author presents some complicated topics in an easy-to-digest manner. Many ideas for thinking outside of the box are given by presenting nontraditional means of agriculture that will be unfamiliar to many readers. The photos have an upbeat, urban feel to them and complement the text nicely. There is also a kid-friendly quality about the information, which is presented in sidebars and dialogue bubbles. In the current climate of sustainability, this title is small but mighty. A lot of relevant topics are hit on in a simple but powerful way. Not to be missed or dismissed.—Rebecca Gueorguiev, New York Public Library

Product Details

Annick Press, Limited
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.40(d)
1090L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 11 Years

Meet the Author

Hadley Dyer is the celebrated author and editor of many books for children and young adults. She is a former bookseller and library coordinator. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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