Welcome to the Hero for the Hungry Blog Tour!
Follow along all week for exclusive guest posts from author Peggy Thomas, plus 5 chances to win Hero for the Hungry (on shelves 9/1)!
Researching with Primary Documents
by Peggy Thomas
When I research a biography, I usually like to travel to the person’s hometown, walk the streets, and visit their home. I like to collect sounds and smells that I can weave into the narrative. I like to get the lay of the land — How far did George W. Carver walk to school? What was Lincoln’s view from his White House office?
But Covid hit just as I was starting to research Nobel laureate, Norman Borlaug, an agricultural scientist who saved millions of lives from starvation. I couldn’t get to Mexico where Norm worked for decades, or even Cresco, Iowa where he grew up. Just reading about him did not give me the same kind of connection.
Fortunately, Texas A & M and the University of Minnesota both have huge archives filled with Borlaug memorabilia, articles, and photos. The digitized images that I could access by computer showed me a time and place I could otherwise have never seen.
Dozens of speeches and taped interviews preserved Norm’s voice and mannerisms. From the comfort of my couch, I was transported to a wheat field in Mexico where Norm talked about plant breeding. Then I was whisked off to an auditorium in Oslo, Norway to hear Norm accept his Nobel Peace Prize. It was easy to see that he was the kind of guy that no matter what he was wearing, a tux or dust-covered khakis, he always spoke with the same enthusiasm.
But the material I found most helpful were Norm’s handwritten notebooks. For decades, Norman recorded the look, feel, and characteristics of every single wheat plant as he searched for a better crop for poor farmers. Each page documented his dedication and showed how much he valued his work.
They also revealed Norm’s private thoughts. They directed my eyes so I could see what he saw and understand his feelings. For example, the first time he visited rural India during a famine he simply wrote: Humanity – frightening.
The more I read, the more I wished I had met Norm. Like me, when Norm rushed to get notes on paper, he didn’t worry about spelling. It was more important to get his ideas down. In one note he said: To dam much philosophy and not enough action.
That was Norm in a nutshell. Once he figured out what he was supposed to do, he just did it.
And thank goodness he did.
Can a quiet Iowa farm boy grow up to change the world? Norman Ernest Borlaug did. Norman Borlaug was the Father of the Green Revolution, saved millions from starvation, and won the Nobel Prize.
How? Science, true American grit, and a passion for helping those in need.
Born in 1914, raised on a small farm, and educated in a one-room schoolhouse, Norman Borlaug learned to work hard and excelled in sports. Against odds and adversity, Norm studied forestry and eventually became a plant scientist, dedicating his life’s work to ending world hunger. Working in obscurity in the wheat fields of Mexico, Norm and his team developed disease-resistant plants, and when widespread famine threatened India and Pakistan, Norm worked alongside poor farmers and battled bureaucracy to save millions from mass starvation. Often called the “Father of the Green Revolution,” Norm helped lay the groundwork for agricultural technological advances that alleviated world hunger. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1970. He was a true hero for the hungry.
Can pursuing science help you and your future generation? This book is sure to inspire young learners!
Sidebars include topics such as a deeper dive into the science Norm was using to produce new and better wheat varieties, agronomy, wheat genes, stem rust, nutrients and more. Back matter includes a timeline of events and discoveries and a call to action for readers to use science to solve problems and do small things to help with hunger and food waste.
Hero for the Hungry is excellent for a science class learning about genetics, an agriculture class studying agronomy, or a history or English class looking for a well-written biography on a hero scientist.
About the Author
Peggy Thomas has always loved true stories, and can’t remember a time when she wasn’t thrilled to find animal bones, musty encyclopaedias, or a history plaque by the side of the road. It’s that same curiosity that has fueled the research and writing of more than twenty nonfiction books for children.
With a master’s degree in anthropology, Peggy explores a wide range of subjects, blending history and science to create award-winning titles. Her most recent books include Lincoln Clears a Path (Calkins Creek, 2021) and Full of Beans: Henry Ford Grows a Car (Calkins Creek, 2019), which earned NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, 2020 Best Book from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, and Book of the Year from the Henry Ford Heritage Association.
Peggy is a member of SCBWI, a blogger for Nonfiction Ninjas, and on the creative team behind Nonfiction Fest, a month-long celebration of writing nonfiction for children.
About the Illustrator
Sam Kalda is an illustrator and artist based in Saint Paul. His commissioned works include editorial, book, advertising and pattern illustration. In 2017, he received a gold medal in book illustration from the Society of Illustrators in New York. He also won a medal from the Cheese Club in college for being able to identify the most amount of, well, cheeses. His first book, Of Cats and Men: History’s Great Cat-loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers and Statesmen, was published by Ten Speed Press in 2017. He recently illustrated his first picture book, When We Walked on the Moon, written by David Long and published by Wide Eyed Press in 2019, as well as the follow-up, When Darwin Sailed the Sea.
He lives in an old house with his husband and two cats, Arthur and Frances. In their role as studio assistants, the cats specialize in houseplant demolition and pencil relocation. He enjoys futzing around in his garden, going to estate sales, and taking long walks. So basically, when he’s not working, he’s retired. He’s taught at CUNY Queens College and Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
About the Publisher
Feeding Minds Press is a project of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, whose mission is to build awareness and understanding of agriculture through education. We focus on helping young readers understand where their food comes from, who grows it, and how it gets to them and believe in cultivating curiosity about food and farming and how agriculture plays a role in our daily lives. All books from Feeding Minds Press have accompanying lessons, activities, and videos to further learning available on their website, http://www.feedingmindspress.com.
- One (1) winner will receive a finished copy of Hero for the Hungry
- US/Can only
- Ends 9/11 at 11:59pm ET
- Enter via the Rafflecopter below
- Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!
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