To Market, To Market written and illustrated by Nikki McClure

I first encountered the work of Nikki McClure at story time in 2009 when I read All in a Day, written by Cynthia Rylant. The following year, I featured Mama, Is It Summer Yet? in my post of great books for Mother's Day. It was right around that time that I discovered the blog Mishaps and Adventures, written by Chad Beckerman, the Art Director for Abrams Books and Amulet Books for Young Readers. You can read about the evolution of a book cover over at Mishaps and Adventures, as well as interviews with artists and authors Mr Beckerman works with in the creation of what are consistently excellent books with a very high production value. These books are truly for people who love books. Beckerman's peek into McClure's studio and work process is a treat. A self-taught artist, McClure has been making paper-cuts since 1996 and every illustration and work of art she creates comes from one piece of paper! Combine this vivid artwork with McClure's powerful sense of the virtues of hard labor and patience, community and sustenance, and you have a remarkable book. Which is exactly what To Market, To Market is. Anyone who visits a farmer's market with his or her child should rush out and buy this book immediately, especially if you live in McClure's hometown of Olympia, Washington because the Olympia Farmer's Market is featured in this book!
To Market, To Market reminds me of the kind of life I would like to live and the values I would like my children to take into adulthood. This book has the incredible ability to simultaneously make me feel guilty, appreciative and hopeful. To Market, To Market makes me wish I had more time to visit my tiny local farmer's market and prepare more homemade food beyond the dinner I cook every night. But, after reading McClure's book, I also find myself being reminded of the foods that I do cook, how much my family loves it and how these meals do bring our family together, whether it's for a simple meal or a celebration. While I am a firm believer that picture books are meant to entertain and expand the imagination, I also have a deep belief that, at their best, they are for guiding and instructing. McClure's book represents the best of this ideal, instructing, reassuring and celebrating. As the blurb for To Market, To Market so perfectly puts it, 

Known for art that celebrates the virtues of community, hard work, and living gently on the planet, Nikki McClure here explores a topic close to her heart: the farmers market. Alternating between story and fact, this lovingly crafted picture book follows a mother and son to the weekly market. As they check off items on their shopping list, the reader learns how each particular food was grown or produced, from its earliest stages to how it ended up at the market. To Market, to Market is a timely book that shines awareness on the skill that goes into making good food.

One page of the story is followed by another page with a couple of paragraphs of factual information about the item on the shopping list being purchased. We meet the farmer/baker/creator who is selling the item, then we learn a bit about how the item is grown and harvested, made or prepared, and how it gets to the market. Almost like two books in one, the person reading the book out loud has option to read the whole book or pick and choose information that younger listeners might not have the patience to sit through. One subtle aspects of To Market, To Market that I especially like is McClure's inclusion of the names of the farmers and other people working at the market, personalizing the experience even further, making the link between the food on your plate and the people who brought it to you an even shorter one.

I love the illustrations and subject matter in To Market, to Market, so I have included many of them here. The page I am most excited to share is the one featuring kale. Two years ago I discovered this recipe at Tori Ritchie's Tuesday Recipe which I have adapted slightly and will share here. Turn your oven on to broil and place rack in the center. Take a bunch of kale, preferably one from your farmer's market, remove the stems and chop coarsely. Place on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes, if you so desire. Place in oven on the middle rack and watch closely. After two to four minutes take the kale out of the oven and toss. Return to oven for a few more minutes, watching closely. When the kale is dark and crispy remove and eat immediately. I have witnessed many people who claim to dislike green veggies, children and adults alike, gobble this stuff up! I always make two bunches at a time for my family of five. Enjoy the kale and I hope you and your children enjoy this fabulous book! Be sure not to miss the last picture here, which is also the final page of the book and ends with the words, "We remember all the people and all the creatures who worked to make this feast. Thank you for this sustenance. We will see you next market day!  Cheers!"

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