Plants, especially if they are edible: a difficult subject for some children. Fruit, vegetables and herbs, plus some that don’t fall into any of the categories and still sometimes end up on the plate – should we read something about that too? Isn’t it enough to have to eat all the greens?
The Spanish author Iban Eduardo Muñoz and the Chilean illustrator Alberto Montt know about the reservations of their target group. So why should young readers be interested in your book “Edible Plants and Their Stories”? In their introduction, the two themselves have no right answer: “After all, a plant as a superhero is difficult to imagine.”
Under no circumstances do Muñoz and Montt want to give the impression of falling into the greenhouse with the door.
Muñoz and Montt know they have to make their audience laugh and be amazed. With nonsense stories and surprising facts. Featuring witty illustrations where bees take bundles of money for pollination, people shake clouds to make them drip water, and all the plants look like they’re meshugge and come from another planet.
Under no circumstances do Muñoz and Montt want to give the impression that the door is falling into the greenhouse. Although that’s exactly what they’re keen on. Iban Eduardo Muñoz is a molecular biologist and biochemist. He is obsessed with plants, especially their genetics. And wants to make what is rampant on earth, and especially through this book, palatable to its audience. There is little to be gained from lectures on vitamins.
Rather with stories that stimulate Frankenstein fantasies in the readers. It is about growing and growing plants and their fruits. And the characters in the book give themselves a bit of the appearance of the crazy professor. In this setting, it is then playful, but in terms of content extremely seriously, about how certain plants have become food over the centuries. And what dynamics this development has recently gained through new scientific possibilities. There are also instructions for experiments on your own windowsill.
The author Laura Gladwin and the illustrator Zoë Barker do not put on their lab coats. Even if the two are also interested in the origin of food. In their book “Was uns schmeckt” they tell more about the geographical and historical origin of food – and less about change and manipulation.
Zoë Barker draws cheese and cakes, pods and sauces, nuts and pasta in a naturalistic way. Her illustrations are reminiscent of drawings made on scientific expeditions of earlier centuries to reproduce plants and animals as faithfully as possible. Laura Gladwin sorts all these goodies into groups: citrus, mushrooms and truffles, flour and grits…
Everywhere she has to limit herself to a selection, she chooses the typical and often one or two more exotic additions. In this way, she constantly directs the gaze from the familiar to the new, thus arousing curiosity about dishes and ingredients from other regions of the world. And points to similarities – to the flatbreads in India, Ethiopia and Iran, for example – and to connections that are not immediately recognizable. So the zucchini is a summer squash.
This is where the two books come closest to each other. Muñoz and Montt, for example, pose this puzzle, among other things: What is the best way to identify tomatoes? For neither are all types red, nor round, nor about the size of a fist, nor evenly smooth.
Laura Gladwin, Zoë Barker: What We Like. An atlas of delicacies. Translated from the English by Ursula Heinzelmann. Insel Verlag, Berlin 2021. 92 pages, 24 euros.
Iban Eduardo Muñoz, Alberto Montt: Edible plants and their story(s). Translated from the Spanish by Edmund Jacoby. Verlagshaus Jacoby und Stuart, Berlin 2021. 40 pages, 16 euros.