208. The Life of Rice by Richard Sobol

The Life of Rice: From Seedling to Supper by Richard Sobol (Canada) - (US)
Traveling Photographer series

Pages: 37
Ages: 7+
Finished: Sept. 16, 2011
First Published: Sept. 28, 2010
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, non-fiction, photo-essay, travel, agriculture, Thailand
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

My life as a photographer involves a lot of fast-paced travel followed by slower times at home as I review and edit my photographs.

Acquired:  Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: I was so impressed with Sobol's photography and writing style when reading his newest book "The Mysteries of Angkor Wat" that I decided to read his entire backlist with my son and discuss the life of a photographer/photojournalist as a career option while doing so.

The author had previously been to Thailand on assignments but this time he received an official invitation to the "Royal Plowing Ceremony" from the King of Thailand and decided that while there on his own time, for a change, he would spend it on photographing the lush rice fields, which he had found fascinating on previous trips, and the role rice has on Thai society.  We learn just how ingrained rice is in Thai culture as virtually all their holidays are centered around rice, it's bi products and it's growing/harvesting seasons.  Rice is grown everywhere there is flat land including people's own backyards.  We learn how the rich farmer will use extravagant machinery in his work while the average farmer uses the same techniques that have been used for thousands of years.  Groups of neighbours get together and work each others paddies one after another to share the work and make the rice a community thing.  Rice is the staple food of Thai people, paddies cover the countryside and festivals are frequent reminders of this staple of their life.

Richard Sobol has told a fascinating story as he travels the country, stopping to help work in the paddy, going to festivals and showing the daily life of small children as they accompany their families through all stages of the rice farmer from planting seeds to taking the 100 pound bags of rice to the mill where they are paid.  Fantastic photography and a storytelling narrative brings this most abundant world-wide crop to life, shows us the people behind the food and the how a crop can be so essential to a country's way of life.  Beautiful book!


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