TOMATOES, TOMATOES, TOMATOES!
Sing a song of plump, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes! Is there anything better than freshly picked homegrown beauties with their promise of mouthwatering soups, salads, sandwiches, salsa, and sauces? Or why not just eat them all by themselves? Hold the essence of summer in your hand, inhale the fragrance of lazy sunny days, then bite into that tempting globe of delight, letting the juice run down your chin. Mmmmmm!
Though it’s winter now in my part of the world, this brand new rhyming picture book by Eric Ode and Kent Culotta has me dreaming of dining al fresco with a cup of zesty gazpacho, a sassy tomato tart, bruschetta pomodoro, panzanella, caprese, veggie pizza and fresh pasta with arugula and parmesan. I could easily whip up all these dishes with the barrels and buckets and bushels of tomatoes described in Too Many Tomatoes (Kane Miller, 2016). 🙂
This joyous, rollicking paean to America’s favorite garden vegetable (and yes, botanically, it’s considered a fruit) is narrated by a spirited young boy who spends the day with his grandparents, helping them pick, crate, and transport the bounty of tomatoes from the garden to the local farmers market.
is popping with peas.
It’s buzzing with blossoms
and bumbly bees.
It’s bursting with berries
and beans and potatoes
and tall, twining vines of
too many tomatoes.
Ode’s pitch perfect toe-tapping rhymes and Culotta’s exuberant illustrations invite the reader to jump right in and join all the fun. The boy’s enthusiasm is positively contagious as he describes how Grandpa first planted the seeds and how excited they were when sprout after sprout came up.
The garden produced such an abundant yield that they had more than enough to share with friends and neighbors before loading up the rest on the truck to take to their stand at the market.
Down to the sidewalk,
and down to the street,
drippy and slippery,
juicy and sweet.
Red ones and yellow ones,
shiny and round,
over the ground.
I love how this story is infused with the warmth of family and community, how a seed of good intentions blossoms into gestures of outreach and interaction. All kinds of people were able to enjoy the tomatoes in their own distinctive ways.
One for the teacher,
and one for the tailor.
One for the scientist.
One for the sailor.
One for the painter,
and one for the plumber.
One for the dancer,
and one for the drummer.
Later there’s even a big tomato parade downtown (love those bright red uniforms), followed by a delicious dinner featuring fresh tomato in a green salad, tomato pie, tomato kabobs, and of course pasta with tomato sauce. Truly a tomato lover’s dream come true!
Too Many Tomatoes is great fun to read aloud; the “too many tomatoes” variable refrain effectively amplifies the boy’s excitement and the celebratory mood of the entire story. Kids will also enjoy counting the tomatoes in each picture and seeing how the same vegetable figures in different scenarios (the scientist examines it under a microscope, the painter uses hers as a still life subject, the whistling sailor tosses his in the air as he saunters along).
And it’s nice to see an active, energetic pair of grandparents wholly engaged with their grandson. Grandpa with his fiddle, Grandma dancing, both of them running in the field and marching in the parade with joyous abandon — certainly not your stereotypical rocking chair doddling pair.
Together, Ode and Culotta have created a jubilant feel-good book that will elicit lots of smiles, requests for rereadings, and the inevitable cravings for tomato dishes. There’s no such thing as too many tomatoes when one can reap this much good will, and nothing tastes better than food that is shared.
So, did Eric and Kent like tomatoes when they were kids, and what’s their favorite way to eat them?
Kent: I’m an Italian boy, so my all time favorite go-to dish is pasta with tomato sauce. I’m afraid that I’m not much of a cook. I keep things pretty simple, so I don’t have any special recipes. I do wish that I had my Grandmother’s recipe for her tomato sauce, though. It was the best ever. I was a pretty finicky eater as a kid, but I do remember liking dishes with tomatoes in them. Another favorite was something my mom called “spanish rice” that had big chunks of tomato in it.
Eric: Yes, I think I’ve always liked tomatoes. And I love raising tomatoes. I love the smell of the vines when you’re harvesting. There’s nothing else that has that particular, wonderful smell. I’m always happy to eat tomatoes fresh. A good tomato in season, all on its own, is a real treat! But I’m also a fan of broiled tomatoes (halved, sprinkled with garlic salt, grated parmesan, basil, maybe a little butter), tomato salads (a variety of fresh tomatoes with cucumber, fresh basil, Kalamata olives, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and feta cheese), and any sandwich or pizza done in a margherita style. I’ll share an example as a recipe.
Grilled Open Face Mozzarella Sandwich
From bottom to top…
Slice of artisan bread, spread w/ a bit of olive oil on top side
Lightly dash with garlic salt
Layer of fresh mozzerella
Sliced fresh tomato
Low broil until warm and absolutely delicious.
Mmmmmmmm! Time for lunch! Thanks for creating this delightfully delicious book, Eric and Kent!
TOO MANY TOMATOES
written by Eric Ode
illustrated by Kent Culotta
published by Kane Miller, March 2016
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 40 pp.
Cool themes: nature, gardening, farmers markets, sustainability, family, sharing, multigenerational stories, rhymes
** Visit the Usborne Books and More website to order your copies (official pub date is March, but it’s available now)!
*** Click here for Too Many Tomatoes Lessons and Activities
*** Click here for the Official Book Trailer
Enjoy this video of Eric shining the spotlight on Too Many Tomatoes:
The lovely and talented Catherine Flynn is hosting the Roundup at Reading to the Core. Do you think she knows how to juggle tomatoes? Skip on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodies on this week’s menu. Eat something tomato-y this weekend!
This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!
*Interior spreads from Too Many Tomatoes posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 Eric Ode, illustrations © 2016 Kent Culotta, published by Kane Miller Books. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.