Title: Alien Tomato
Author: Kristen Schroeder
Illustrator: Mette Engell
Publisher: Page Street Kids, 2020
Synopsis from Internet: When a mysterious red orb appears one day, the vegetables aren’t sure what to make of it. They decide that it must be an alien tomato! They name her Allie and try to make her feel as welcome as possible. But Gopher isn’t convinced. He’s sure it’s just a ball.
Themes: Aliens, Anthropomorphized vegetables and animals, Humor
Last week, I visited a sunflower field to take pictures and draw and well, just get out in nature for a while. While there, we heard a noise in the field. Not just the rustling of leaves in the breeze, not the buzzing of the bees. Yes, those were all present, but this was a larger creature moving through the field. I thought it was my friend moving deeper into the sunflowers, but when I turned around, she was there several feet away (more the the socially distant 6) at the edge of the field. She had hear it too. "It cam from in there." She said.
Maybe it was a gopher. Maybe it was a fox, a coyote, or other wild animal, or maybe it was an alien.
Opening line: It streaked through the sky on a perfect day in July . . . and landed in the garden.
There is this matter-of-fact narration that kind of runs the play by play of the story. The vegetables and the gopher disagree on what this red orb actually is with their dialog appearing in speech bubbles. All of these parts add layers of humor as the tension builds between the veggies and the gopher. I love that the vegetables decide the red orb is an alien tomato and are totally accepting of this new friend in their garden. Gopher is so sure that the vegetables are wrong, but no one is listening to him so he takes action to gain attention.
As a Master Naturalist, I have often fought with the idea of anthropomorphizing things in nature. Lately, I have used it in my own writing as a way to get close to the reader and let a child know from the source what life is like for animals and insects. It's a lot of fun and allows for imagination to bloom. I think it also helps with empathy. When we give life and language to nature, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of what we are bringing to life.
As I have watched the robin babies fledge from the nest over our deck, I find myself creating a whole discussion between the babies and their parents. There is so much chirping back and forth. For a couple days, the three robins looked like they were overwhelmed by the crowded nest. One jumps and not long after the other two, snuggled in and let mom and dad keep feeding them. As the little voices I have given to the birds talk, I am conscious that I am trying to figure out what is really on the minds of these birds.
This silly book is set in a garden, but it's just fun and filled with imagination and play. In these more than trying times, it is a wonderful reprieve from worry. We all need to laugh. It's actually quite beneficial to your health. And as for imagination, that is so important to our willingness to see the world from many different angles and not get stuck with just one answer. So I highly recommend this book. I will be giving a copy to a neighbor friend. I don't think she needs help imagining things, but I do think she will have more fun in her garden after reading this book.
Activities and Resources:
Get out in a garden. Maybe there's a community garden in your area you can visit. I must admit, after eating fresh fruits and veggies from the garden, the stuff you buy in the store just loses it's luster. If you never liked vegetables, you may find that eating fresh picked veggies changes that. I ate a radish from the garden a few years ago and discovered a whole new tasty treat. And, things like lettuce, spinach, kale, radishes, and snap peas love the cooler weather. if you have a little space to plant some seeds, your can get in a fall crop by starting a garden in August.
Here's an activity guide from Kristen's website.
Use your imagination and give an animal, rock, or vegetable their voice. What would they say and why?
Go on an alien hunt.
Draw an alien.
Something to eat:
If you have a garden, be sure to try a tomato right from the vine. Give it a little rinse and pop that warm treat in your mouth. Make sure it's not an alien first.
A simple salad is sliced tomatoes and sliced cucumbers with a bit of balsamic vinegar dressing.
My favorite thing to make when I go out on an adventure is a peanut butter sandwich. It's easy, portable and doesn't need to be kept cold. I admit, I am not a fan of peanut butter and jelly. I like peanut butter or jelly, but the combo is not my favorite. If' it's your favorite, go for it, we all have different tastes. Pack a few carrots too, I think aliens like them.