Little Sweet Potato

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Little Sweet Potato has lived peacefully in his garden patch until vibrations from a tractor shake him loose from his vine and toss him onto a road. Wondering how to get back home, he bravely rolls to another garden, occupied by resident carrots who wiggle “their long orange bodies,” call him “lumpy, dumpy, and…bumpy” and reject him. Little Sweet Potato resolutely continues to another patch, where handsome eggplants with satiny skin refuse him because of his “dumpy, bumpy, and kinda lumpy” appearance. At the next garden, flowers with “velvety blue and yellow faces” shun Little Sweet Potato because he’s a “lumpy, bumpy, dumpy vegetable.” Following similar receptions from the grapes and squash, Little Sweet Potato is about to give up when he’s welcomed into a garden teeming with all kinds of plants who praise his lumpy, dumpy, bumpy figure. Rendered in strong black outlines and bright colors, the comical illustrations track Little Sweet Potato’s solitary roll across sequential double-page spreads. Cartoonlike, anthropomorphic veggies, fruits and flowers add humor with their hilarious expressions, ranging from haughty and scornful to enthusiastic and approving.

A tale of rejection and acceptance with echoes of “The Ugly Duckling.” (Picture book. 4-7)

Accidently uprooted from his garden patch, a sweet potato is repeatedly excluded from other gardens before landing in just the right place.


HarperCollins Children’s Books

Little Sweet Potato
Amy Beth Bloom, illus. by Noah Z. Jones. HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-180439-7
Like the bird in P.D. Eastman’s classic Are You My Mother?, the vegetable hero of adult author Bloom’s first children’s book is also trying to get home—and the world at large is even more hostile in this outing. When Little Sweet Potato is accidentally tossed out of his garden patch and into the road, he rolls along trying to find where he belongs. As he is rebuffed by eggplants, flowers, and squash that keep to their own kind (the carrots tell him he’s “lumpy, dumpy, and—we have to say it—you’re bumpy”), he realizes that he “didn’t know the world had such mean vegetation in it.” Eventually, Little Sweet Potato finds a place where he fits in—because everyone does; Jones’s bold cartoons portray the vegetables, fruits, flowers, and fungi in Hodge-Podge Patch with wide eyes and manic grins. The ending has just enough drollery (“It’s not all mulch and sunshine out there,” says an eggplant) to leaven the story’s didactic message about diversity. Ages 4–7. Agent: Jennifer Walsh, William Morris Endeavor. Illustrator’s agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, McIntosh & Otis. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/10/2012

Click here to view/download a PDF of the New York Times Book Review callout of Little Sweet Potato