A Whidbey Island author has recently published a children’s book that teaches kids about local food and the seasonality of produce.
Clinton resident Katherine Pryor’s fifth book is entitled “Spring is for Strawberries.” It was illustrated by Polina Gortman. Pryor will do a reading of the book at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. on June 3 at Bayview Farmers Market in Langley.
Pryor said the concept of the book was inspired by her young children’s questions about asparagus. At 2 years old, the twins asked Pryor why they couldn’t eat their “tiny trees” all year round. She explained that asparagus is only in season for a short amount of time and when you eat it outside of the time, it doesn’t taste as good.
“At 2 years old, they understood the concept,” Pryor recalled.
She decided to write a book on seasons and produce but decided to focus on strawberries instead of asparagus, because she thinks strawberries are the perfect example of local food systems.
There are over 600 types of strawberries in the world but because the fruit spoils quickly, most large growers only grow a few different types, Pryor explained. In the grocery store, strawberries tend to be large with a high water content and in Washington, likely grew in a far away place.
While Pryor said she is grateful for out-of-season berries, she prefers to buy a certain type of the fruit from a farm here on Whidbey every spring. She calls them the “perfect strawberry.” They are small, vibrant red in color and have an ideal balance of tart and sweet flavors. The only caveat is that she has to eat them within 24 hours or they start to mold.
“If you only ever eat strawberries from the grocery store, you’re missing out on the complexity of strawberries,” Pryor said,
“Spring is for Strawberries” focuses on the friendship between two girls – one who lives on a farm with her family and sells their produce to a farmer’s market, and one who lives in the city with her family who buys the produce from the farmer’s market.
The goal of the book is to teach kids the value of eating food from local farms and gardens, Pryor said. Local food can be more nutritious and flavorful as it is eaten closer to the time it was harvested. The book celebrates the changing of seasons and the different produce, weather and activities that come along with each.
Pryor’s other books also focus on food and gardening. Her first book, “Sylvia’s Spinach,” was inspired by her time advocating for farm to school funding in Olympia. After spending her 20s working odd jobs and trying to become a novelist, Pryor studied Environment & Community with a focus in sustainable food and farming at Antioch University Seattle. In her job, she spent a lot of time in school gardens, farms and farmers markets speaking to children about how food grows.
One day, she heard a dad tell a story of how his daughter didn’t eat spinach until she helped grow it in the family’s garden. Pryor immediately thought that story would make a great children’s book. She took a night class on how to write for children and discovered writing books for kids was an easy way to balance full time work with a creative career.
Her other books “Zora’s Zucchini’s,” “Bea’s Bees” and “Hello, Garden” also focus on locally grown food. Pryor has another book coming out in August called “Home is Calling” about the migration of Monarch butterflies.
She encourages people to look for her titles at local bookstores on Whidbey Island. For more information on Pryor and her work, visit katherinepryor.com.