I pretty much live in comfy, faux-fur-lined, water-resistant boots from the first really cold night of autumn till spring warms up enough that I can venture out in sneakers. So I was really excited to pick up this look at all the ways boots are worn in one of their most practical settings: on a working farm.
Written in verse throughout, this children’s book talks about the many kinds of boots you’d use for different agricultural tasks, from tending crops to livestock, following the turn of the year. It starts in the spring, goes through all four seasons, then ends a year later by checking to see whether the kids in the book need new boots. There’s a nice glossary page on the different kinds of boots at the end, and the book itself features gorgeous end papers showcasing boots, produce and blue ribbons.
The text is cute and gets the point across in a way that isn’t too difficult for young readers to follow. As an older reader, I felt that some of the rhymes were forced, but kids probably wouldn’t notice or care. I did love how the book covered so many different aspects of farm life, from growing to showing to snowing. It was nice to see the kids at both work and play.
The art was also lovely, with so many people and scenes. The animals and the kids’ interactions with them were outright adorable: a personal favorite of mine was the panel showing a Black girl putting the horse out to pasture with a kiss before mucking out its stable. There’s so much diversity representation on display that it was a little weird to realize that there weren’t any East Asian people pictured. If I squinted, maybe the dad and son in one of the first panels were of East Asian descent in a mixed race family, but they could just as easily have been white. This felt like a really weird oversight in a book filled with Black and brown and white faces. There was even a girl with a hijab and another in a wheelchair, which made the exclusion stand out even more.
While I’m sure that that wasn’t done on purpose, I’m 100% going to take this opportunity to remind readers that Asian immigrants have long driven innovation in American agriculture. Alas that their labor was too often historically rewarded with expulsion, exploitation or worse. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian and South Asian farmers in the United States were systematically discriminated against going back over a century now. While discriminatory government policies have changed, the xenophobia behind them still simmers, even as young Asian Americans seek to claim a toehold in the industry while getting in touch with their own roots.
Farm Boots is a beautiful addition to any kid’s library, but I’m hoping it also sparks a conversation about diversity in agriculture. There are so many wonderful resources available for readers to learn more about this topic. In addition to the links above, I’d like to recommend Rishi Reddi’s magnificent Passage West, her debut novel about Punjabi sharecroppers, their Mexican in-laws and their Japanese neighbors in the early 1900s. It’s a wonderfully written book that talks about the history of West Coast agriculture in a way that’s both incredibly moving and incredibly relevant for Americans today. Hopefully, it’ll be the kind of book our kids will eventually read and love, too.
Farm Boots by Lisl H. Detlefsen & Renee Kurilla was published March 21 2023 by Feeding Minds Press and is available from all good booksellers, including