Which is what made this particular library find all the sweeter, because not only does it focus on one of his all time most-preferred fruits, oranges, but also because it explains the cycle of how that orange comes to the table.
In An Orange in January, Dianna Hutts Aston starts by centering the story on one tiny blossom, glowing in the light of spring. From there, we follow the progress of the bees pollinating the blossom, to the orange itself beginning to manifest itself. Eventually the fruit is ripe, and it is picked by "a hand, brown with seasons of sun," then it is on its way to a grocery store. There it is selected by an adorable brown-skinned boy, who cradles his find carefully home, then takes it to school where he distributes pieces of the juicy treat to his friends. Yum!
Julie Maren illustrated this colorful title, and her pictures definitely add an air of realistic whimsy to the story Hutts Aston has to tell. In one fanciful spread, the boy pictures himself using his orange in various ways: as something to juggle, as a ball to pitch, as a globe to help him see the future. Sprout loves this part - he likes to laugh at the idea of doing anything with an orange but eating it, which he simply cannot imagine doing. He also likes the pictures at the end, when the hero has shared his orange with his friends on the playground. "They are sharing!" he says, delightedly. Another fantastic message to take away from this well-written book.
A big part of healthy eating is awareness, getting kids to understand the natural element in the food that they are consuming. With lyrical precision, Hutts Aston carries readers along for the journey of the food cycle. (That she made the main character a person of color is particularly wonderful - this is a message that all kids need to understand.) Helping to connect the dots between what's on our plates and where it came from, An Orange in January is a great way to make kids aware of agriculture and how food is sourced. No longer will they think of supermarket produce as springing only from boxes and bags - rather, they'll look at the trees and vines around them as a source of nutrition and deliciousness. And that's a treat that's everyone can appreciate!
An Orange in January by Dianna Hutts Aston, published by Dial Books for Young Readers
Sample: "When morning came, the orange reached the end of its journey, bursting with the seasons inside it. / And two hands, pink with cold, shared its segments, so that everyone could taste the sweetness of an orange in January."
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