No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas

illus. by Don Tate. 40p. bibliog. chron. glossary. notes. Knopf. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385752763.
OrangeReviewStarK-Gr 3—Bolden has written a delightful picture book biography of Junius G. Groves, who was born into slavery in 1859 but went on to create an agricultural empire that earned him the title "Potato King of the World" in 1902. As part of the mass exodus of African Americans from the South after the Civil War, Groves left Kentucky and settled in Kansas. There he educated himself in the science of agriculture and successfully built a vast potato growing empire that made him one of the richest men in his time. Bolden retells this tale of a life of hard work and lasting influence in a narrative peppered with alliterative, and occasionally rhyming, phrases: "Exodusters journeyed by steamboat, by train, in bumpety-bump oxcarts, in wide-wheeled wagons." Quotes from Groves's diary are set in text boxes throughout the book: "It was several weeks before I could get work on a farm, and when I finally did secure a place, it was at almost starvation wages, 40 cents per day." Tate successfully matches the energy of the text with engaging cartoon artwork, done in mixed media with a palette of sandy browns and bright greens, which thoughtfully depict Groves and his family.
VERDICT A charming mix of biography, history, agriculture, math, and lots of potatoes—a great addition to nonfiction collections.

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