The Little Plant Doctor: A Story About George Washington Carver by Jean Marzollo and illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max is an introduction to a great scientist, and also a glimpse into what it was like to be African-American during the time after the Civil War. It is a picture book to consider reading for both STEM studies and Black History Month.
This book has loads of educational potential. As a biography, the reader learns the details the childhood of a famous scientist. George Carver (he added the Washington part later) wasn’t allowed to go to school because the nearest school was for whites only. He didn’t let that stop him. He still learned how to read, and spent his time learning all he could about plants. Later he put those early studies to good use when he became a plant scientist, investigating uses for peanuts and sweet potatoes. In the back matter the author reveals he discovered over 300 ways to use peanuts in many diverse products. The endpapers feature lovely illustrations of a peanut plant and a sweet potato plant (with the primary parts labeled) to honor his work with those plants.
In an unusual choice, the narrator of the story is a tree. Some readers may not find this as appealing as others, but it might be a chance to “turn lemons into lemonade,” as the saying goes. Use the book to discuss the idea of a narrator in the story. Ask why the author might have chosen a tree to narrate (to show the passage of time, because George Carver loved plants). How does the tree narrator limit the story? (Trees can’t move around to follow the main character, etc.)
The Little Plant Doctor celebrates the early childhood of a great scientist. Perhaps it will inspire a future scientist, as well.
With a little planning, it could be fun to pair this book with an activity to sprout sweet potatoes as well.
- Sweet potato
- Clear container for water large enough to accommodate the sweet potato.
- Water source
Determine the end of the sweet potato that was attached to the plant, if possible. That should be oriented up or out of the water. Stick some toothpicks into the middle of a sweet potato and suspend it root down into the container so that about half the potato is immersed when water is added. Keep the water level up by adding water as needed. Look for new growth. (A clear container works best so you can watch for root growth).
Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Hardcover: 22 pages
Publisher: Holiday House (April 15, 2011)
Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.