Alternative Crops (or “Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm”)


No! not that kind of alternative crops; this entry’s about a picture book titled Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm.

As one might guess from the title, Harvey Potter raises balloons on his farm, implausibly complex brilliantly colored balloons atop plants which resemble cornstalks, and no one can figure out how he does it. A jealous neighbor sics the government on him, but the agents can’t figure out how he does it. In the end they are forced to simply grant him permission to do what he’s always done and leave, sheepishly taking away a balloon each, complete with stalk for string. The narrator, curious to see if she can discover what the adults could not, first befriends Potter, then when no hints are forthcoming, she sneaks into his sycamore tree one moonlit night and watches the farmer “plant” a crop. When the narrator’s grown enough to want to leave home and make her way in the world, he grows her a balloon big enough to carry her away to her own balloon farm. The book ends as the narrator brags on her thirty second crop of balloons, this page accompanied by an illustration of an overalled woman amidst her crop, balloons in the ground resembling beets or turnips.

The illustrations for this book are somewhat cartoonish in appearance, and the colors simple, but that suits a kids’ book about balloon farming, no? (That said, keep an eye on the cloud designs and on the balloons’ expression, particularly the one in which the government agents are investigating the farm.) Between the illustrations and the text, I’d guess that the bulk of the book’s placed in the South in the ’50s…in an integrated community1. It’s an amusing tall tale.

1similarly to van Allsburg’s Probuditi

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