‘A Patch from Scratch (Penguin. 32 pp, $24.99) deals not with our past but with building for the future, as it champions sustainable gardening for a young audience. Told in the first person by an enthusiastic little boy, the text details how Jesse and his family create a vegie garden and raise chickens in their backyard.
Young Jesse describes how they plant their favourite foods – his are strawberries – and then nurture them, keeping them free of bugs and safe from marauding possums. Both Jesse and his older brother Lewis have their jobs to do, weeding and watering the plants and feeding the family’s chickens, which they raise from chicks.
In the process, Jesse learns not only how things grow but also how to be patient, as he waits for his strawberries to flower, fruit and ripen. All their hard work pays off in the end as they put on a celebratory feast for family and friends featuring yummy food made from produce picked fresh from their own backyard.
Author-illustrator Megan Forward successfully uses a child’s-eye view of the world to document how to research for, plan, create and sustain a garden that will produce more than enough food to keep a family happily reaping the benefits for many years to come. At the back of the book, she includes a list of books and websites to consult for useful gardening tips, as well as a diagram of how to create a garden patch from scratch. There are also fresh and delicious recipes to make based on the results of your labour, exactly as the family in the story do.
A Patch from Scratch is enticingly presented on warm cream pages, with watercolour illustrations in soft shades of predominantly green and brown. They are full of homely details, domesticity and heart-warming family interactions. The appealing images include visual clues about gardening, including child-drawn diagrams and illustrations. Both text and illustrations also include humorous touches, which add to the child appeal of this inspirational hands-on guide to family gardening. Who knew that keeping things real could be so entertaining.’ Dr Stephanie Reeder The Sydney Morning Herald
‘A Patch From Scratch’ is everything I’ve been looking for in a gardening/sustainability book for years now. Aimed at young children 4+ (and I’ve happily read it to every year level from Kindy – Year Six), this book should be read far and wide as inspiration to all families to start their own patch from scratch at home. Megan Daley Children’s Books Daily
‘We just received Patch from Scratch this week and we absolutely adore it! It’s perfect for us at GR so we will feature it on the Kids Page next issue. So gorgeous! And we loved how the author explains all the processes so sensibly. I’m going to buy a copy for my kids’ school as well!’
Many thanks,Jessamy Miller Grass Roots Publishing
‘This beautifully illustrated picture book is a surprising read, with great depth and an important message for young readers and their families alike.
With an endorsement from the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, I was intrigued by what type of story I would find within the covers and I was not left disappointed. A Patch from Scratch will challenge primary school readers with its educational and entertaining mix of eco-messaging and an enticing introduction to sustainable living.
The story tells of a little boy and his big brother Lewis who catch the gardening bug from their parents. They devote themselves to building an organic fruit and vege patch in their suburban backyard with help from family, friends and neighbours. As it unfolds, events take the reader into a world of simplicity and community that parents may remember from their childhood yet most urban-dwelling children may not even recognise.
For the latter, the author takes the opportunity to open their minds to a new way of living. The idea is that anyone can turn a little patch of earth, wherever it may be, into a productive gardening space. It will bring them endless pleasure and the chance to interact with nature.
Featuring real children’s sketches of gardening, and a reference section with recommended reading, a sustainable gardening flow chart and recipes, Megan Forward takes the picture book medium to a new level, with its ability to educate and influence.
Delightful and inspirational, A Patch from Scratch isn’t afraid to challenge young readers and their parents to create a more sustainable world in their very own backyards.’ Brydie Wright Creative Kids Tales
“Let’s go on a journey together. Let’s find a patch of dirt in a bright sunny spot. Let’s dig, plant, water and see if we can become friends with the earth under our feet. Let’s build A Patch from Scratch.”
‘With an increasing number of home, school and community vegetable gardens springing up in our suburbs, A Patch from Scratch is a timely picture book offering children an insight into what is involved in planting and tending their own home fruit and vegetable patches.
Jesse and Lewis live in the suburbs on the edge of a big city, but their family wants to live more like a family on a farm. They work together to learn about sustainable gardening projects including what plants they should grow, how to make compost and how to care for their new chickens.
The illustrations and text, both by Megan Forward, take readers through the process of planning and preparing the gardens, planting, building a chicken coop, and connecting with their neighbours and community through their garden projects. The final pages include a recommended reading list for sustainable gardening, an illustration of the cycle that connects chickens, compost, gardens and plants, and some very simple recipes made by Jesse and Lewis during the story using produce from their garden.
‘A Patch from Scratch has more text than the average picture book, so is best suited for slightly older children or parents and children reading together, especially if they are starting their own sustainable gardens. It is also ideal for classroom use in preschools and schools where there are vegetable gardens maintained by staff and students.’ Susan Whelan Kids Book Review
‘Jesse’s family live in the suburbs outside a big city and are keen to start growing their own food in their backyard. So, the family draw up plans, build a chicken coop and create ‘no dig’ veggie patches from scratch to plant their freshly purchased seedlings in. Neighbours get involved through food swapping and lending their hands, while seeds are sown and the joys of germination marvelled at. With beautiful, soft colours and busy illustrations, Megan Forward has created a lovely story about the joys of gardening and spending time with family and friends as well as the delicious produce that can be grown at home. For ages 3 and up.’ Katherine Dretzke is a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.
‘My husband and I have been talking for quite a while now about starting our own herb and vegie garden, so it was with even more excitement than usual that I was looking forward to the launch of ‘A Patch from Scratch’, written and illustrated by Megan Forward. I was not disappointed! This book is a beautiful portrayal of a real suburban family wanting to live like people on a farm. From getting chooks to mixing compost, from planting to harvesting, it culminates in a feast using all fresh ingredients from their own garden. I love that it’s an informative ‘how-to’ book for kids, students, families and adults but told in an engaging narrative. The beautiful illustrations are bright and fresh.Although longer than the current 500 word standard for picture book texts (close to 1900 words), we found ourselves so engrossed in the story and production of the garden that we didn’t even notice the higher than usual word count. There’s so much information nestled into the story, written in first person as the little brother in the family. I love the fun loving nature of the main character and his realistic voice, one that children will, no doubt, find appealing. He loves getting dirty and making a mess, he imagines dirt smells like a cave and he thinks a ‘rocket’ plant will take them to the moon when they eat it! It’s also an interesting read for adults. It includes so much useful information on starting a vegie patch, like planting marigold flowers amongst the vegies to confuse the pests, making insect repelling sprays from natural ingredients, and showing a compost plan with ingredients to include. (The compost plan is adorable as it’s a real picture drawn by Megan’s son including little pac-man figures representing the bacteria helping enrich the soil – so cute!) ?To top it all off, there’s extra resources at the back including a glossary, relevant books, an illustrated cycle of how a vegetable garden works and recipes for the food mentioned in the story which can be made using ingredients from your patch.The book launch was heaps of fun for kids at the lovely Riverbend Books in Bulimba, Brisbane. After hearing the story, they moved downstairs to participate in planting their own seeds, drawing with charcoal and painting in watercolours. I was very impressed to see their enthusiasm and talent! This book, which could be a how-to guide, might just be the inspiration for the very many city families who would love to be just like the family in this gorgeous new picture book and create a Patch from Scratch. That patch would be filled with home grown sources of food, from beans and carrots to eggs and heaps in between … just look at the number of websites with references to growing your own food. Rachelle Sadler
A young boy and his family design their own backyard patch to grow the fruit and vegetables they want to eat, from planning the layout, to building and composting and mulching and eradicating bugs, buying the seedlings, the regular watering and responsibilities, involving the neighbours and family and friends, to creating a food diary – right down to the family celebrating their work feasting on the produce from the patch – it’s all covered in this delightful book.
The final pages include a brief comment on ecosystems and other references to creating A Patch from Scratch as well as some very simple recipes.