I’m so happy to share a soon-to-be-released picture book biography that I’ve had on my radar for a while. Insightful and inspirational – this is one you won’t want to miss!
Title: I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon
Written By: Baptiste & Miranda Paul
Illustrated By: Elizabeth Zunon
Publisher/Date: Millbrook Press (an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)/5 February 2019
Suitable for Ages: 7-11
Themes/Topics: environmentalism; Cameroon; farming; clean water; intergenerational; social activism; biography
This is northwestern Cameroon. Green. Wet. Alive. The rainy season has begun.
A young boy in West Africa who loves to garden becomes a farmer and founds a grassroots, not-for-profit organization to protect the environment via sustainable farming and clean water projects.
Links to Resources:
- Discover the West African country of the Republic of Cameroon, where Farmer Tantoh lives and works;
- Try some kid-friendly gardening activities, including inside activities that you can do in your home or classroom;
- Learn about the Save Your Future Association, a grassroots, not-for-profit organization in Cameroon that Farmer Tantoh founded in 2005 to protect the environment, including sustainable landscaping and ensuring clean water to rural communities in northwestern Cameroon, to build community, and to promote education about environmental issues;
- Watch the book trailer and learn more about Farmer Tantoh and Cameroon in the Authors’ Note, Glossary and Pronunciation Guide (which helpfully includes words for water), and Proverbs.
Why I Like this Book:
I Am Farmer is an inspirational, true story that shows young and old alike that one person with passion and persistence can make a difference in his or her home community and the world. In this picture book biography, the Pauls introduce young readers to Farmer Tantoh, who has a life-long love of gardening inherited from his grandmother and father, who has pursued his passion to become a farmer, and who works to bring clean water and organic farming to his home country of Cameroon. Whether reading I Am Farmer at home or in the classroom, I think young environmentalists will chuckle at Tantoh’s first attempts to grow onions without soil or water and marvel at his persistence to become a farmer despite his classmates’ jeers, his older brother’s pleading that Tantoh not pursue this low-paying occupation, and a water-borne illness that left Tantoh ill for several years.
I Am Farmer is a fascinating story about Farmer Tantoh’s life and work, and it’s a wonderful introduction to life in rural Cameroon in West Africa, a place most of us are unlikely to visit. This picture book biography also introduces children to important science topics including horticulture, sustainable agriculture, and the need for clean water.
Zunon’s colorful collage illustrations bring Farmer Tantoh’s world to life. The inclusion of photographs on the endpapers, including of Farmer Tantoh, of his grandmother and other family members, and of Cameroon, is an added bonus.
A Note about Craft:
Picture book biographies are popular now, but who is a good subject to feature? I think Farmer Tantoh is a wonderful choice because he became interested in his life’s work as a child, he’s overcome several challenges, including physical and economic, his work helps others, and growing food and obtaining clean water are issues that kids can relate to and understand. That there are few picture books set in Cameroon and that Farmer Tantoh’s grandmother inspired and helped him grow his passion add interest and layers to this inspiring biography.
The Pauls sprinkle gardening and water-related terms and phrases throughout I Am Farmer. I think this will help readers better enjoy the story and understand and discuss the issues raised. For instance, as a student, “Tantoh drinks up facts and figures faster than his teacher can pour them onto the chalkboard.” Zunon helpfully includes environmental, water, and horticultural terms on the classroom chalkboard. Likewise, a “stream of hands” work together to bring fresh water to villages, where a “trickle of hope” grows, and a “crop” of young people are “digging in, planting ideas, and growing a movement”.
Visit Baptiste Paul’s website and Miranda Paul’s website to learn more about their other picture books. To view more of Elizabeth Zunon’s artwork, visit her website here.
The authors provided a digital copy of I Am Farmer in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!