Vegetable patches and community gardens are so common nowadays, no matter whether the reason for starting one is economic or environmentally wise, that one cannot but be pleased to encounter a book for children about making one. As with Ginny Stone’s other books in the Sibo series, Sibo and the Veggie Patch revolves around the adventures of the little girl, Sibo, who decides one day, enterprising and conscientious little mite that she is, to start her own vegetable patch in her own back yard. How she enlists the help of her father with the more strenuous and demanding tasks related thereto is a delight! I only wish that all children (and adults, for that matter!) should have such a zest for life, and such a get-up-and-go attitude towards dealing with the everyday challenges that they encounter.
Apart from the extremely sound ecological message that Sibo and the Vegetable Patch conveys, the sense of humour with which Stone relates her down-to-earth (in more ways than one!) message makes the whole exercise great fun, as is the making of one’s very own veggie patch, when one does get down to doing it (ditto!). Children will delight to hear how Sibo lands on her butt in the mud, for instance, as they will no doubt start to think of all the times that they themselves have done likewise.
It is doubtful whether rolling around in the muck (so to speak) has ever been more joyfully done – and in rhyming verse, too! The brightly coloured pages bring such scenes as the following to radiant life:
“They added manure that was really quite stinky.
She closed her nose with her thumb and left pinky.”
Although the story itself is presented as a straightforward narrative, the spirit in which it is written is the most exciting aspect of it all, in that one gathers that Stone really is committed to the furtherance of green causes. Her Sibo books are all written from the heart, and should appeal across cultures and age groups, although the series tends generally to be aimed at the tween market. Stone’s presentation of the facts of each issue that she covers is woven so skilfully into the story that any reader is likely to succumb to the natural rhythm of the text, and to read her text first as an entertainment, and then only as a guide to how to set about greening the world. In short, Stone’s writing is beguiling, and bewitch one she definitely does do!
Although Sibo has middle-class, caring parents, and is, therefore, quite different to some of Stone’s readers, who might come from a somewhat harsher background, they should find that they have a great deal in common with her, and so relate as easily to her as they do to the story line itself. Sibo is such an exemplary kid, and is so undaunted by any challenges that she encounters, that she is, in fact, likely to become an ardent role model to her real-life peers.
For those who are interested in reading more than one of the Sibo books, some of Stone’s other gems in the series are also freely available from the https://sibo.co.za/books/ site. Exploring further is strongly advised!
An Interview with Ginny Stone, Author of Sibo and the Veggie Bed
Lois Henderson, reviewer for BookPleasures.com, welcomes as our guest Ginny Stone, author of fourteen books in the Sibo series, who combines a hectic home life with being secretary/treasurer of the Southern African Association of Science and Technology Centres (SAASTEC).
Lois: Good day Ginny, and thanks so much for participating in our interview. Please explain the background to your writing of Sibo and the Veggie Bed.
Ginny: I read an article in the newspaper one Saturday morning (I think it was The Star) from The Food Gardens Foundation about how to make a veggie bed the size of a door. It gave exact instructions. I thought what a great idea for a kid’s book, plus it is a practical thing, because it is a totally manageable size for small gardens, too.
Lois: Please provide a synopsis of the plot of Sibo and the Veggie Bed.
Ginny: Sibo reads about how to make a veggie bed in the paper, and decides to give it a go herself. Again, she gets her mum and dad on board, and, between them all, they eventually make a veggie bed. This title empowers kids with the knowledge to make their own veggie bed, and to grow their own food.
Lois: What were your major challenges with writing Sibo and the Veggie Bed?
Ginny: There really were no challenges writing this book. Once the first version was edited by Peter Sanderson (Let’s Look Publishers), I then sent it to the Food Gardens Foundation for them to check that I had not messed up anything big time. It was very amusing, because the lady who replied (I forget her name) actually fixed my couple of glitches so that the story still rhymed. Of course we also acknowledged their contribution in the back of the book, and we are still friends on Facebook.
Lois: What were your highlights with your writing of Sibo and the Veggie Bed?
Ginny: I love gardening, flowers and growing veggies, so writing something that might help inspire a future generation not only to respect the earth, but to start gardening at a young age, and to grow their own food in the process was awesome for me. It’s actually one of my favourite books in the series.
Lois: What has your feedback about Sibo and the Veggie Bed shown in terms of the impact that it has had on your target audience? Please give concrete examples of such, if possible.
Ginny: I think that after children read the book they actually want to dash out and plant their own vegetable patch. More than one person has said to me (not always happily, I might add), “Well, thanks very much, now my kids have dug up bits of our garden to plant veggies after reading your book.” (One of these people was Zeblon Vilakazi – who was then Director of iThemba LABS – he’s now Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Wits (University) – and his kids are probably big already!)
Lois: What effect has your writing of Sibo and the Veggie Bed had on your writing career?
Ginny: This is the second title in the Sibo series. It is also still being read widely in schools and libraries around the country.
Lois: Thank you so much, Ginny, for granting me this opportunity to interview you. Sibo and the Veggie Bed takes me back to my primary school days spent at Helderberg College, where each child was allotted their own part of a veggie patch to take care of – what a wonderful upbringing for a child to be close to the earth in this way! We wish you all the very best with your future Sibo books.