Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life - by Jan Reynolds

Our children are learning the mantra of "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" - but do they know where our basic food staples come from? More than that, do they understand what it means to grow food in a sustainable way?

On the island of Bali, growing rice is a way of life. For hundreds of years, Balinese farmers have grown rice in a sustainable way, working with the natural cycles of the environment. Photojournalist Jan Reynolds provides a fascinating look at how rice farmers work with the traditional religious practices to create a sustainable, productive way of growing one of the world's most important crops.
Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life
written and illustrated by Jan Reynolds
NY: Lee & Low Books, 2009
ages 10 - 13
This book combines interesting scientific and cultural information with beautiful photographs that draw you in. Jan Reynolds, an award-winning photojournalist, describes the traditional rice farming methods in Bali and how this cycle is closely connected to that of community life in the island. This natural rice cycle involves a hierarchy of water temples; high priests perform rituals to thank the goddesses of water and rice; the priests and the farmers carefully plan water-sharing schedules to distribute the water down the mountainside, allowing for a fallow period between growing cycles to keep the fields fertile. After the growing period, ducks are brought onto the fallow fields to eat worms and bugs and to fertilize the soil naturally with manure.

I particularly think students who are studying agricultural societies will find this interesting because Reynolds shows how fully the culture and the religion revolves around the crop cycle. In my mind, this is a perfect book for middle school students wanting to learn more about science, the environment and world cultures. For younger children, perhaps ages 9 and 10, it would be interesting to read as a family, discussing the way we get our food, and how we grow our food impacts the environment.

In support of this blog tour, the publisher, Lee and Low, is having a great sale on Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life, offering 26% off AND free shipping. Just enter the code JanTour at leeandlow.com.

For those who would like to find more information, Jan has a some good information on her website, with links to videos about this project. Find her at www.janreynolds.com. She also has interesting interviews at the publisher's website (Lee and Low Books) and at Lori Calabrese's Children Book Examiner.


  1. Mary,

    I find Jan Reynolds to be soooo amazing. What an interesting author to learn about and the way she gets her stories is out of this world! What a fascinating book! Thanks for a great review! :)


  2. Ditto what Lori said - these look like visual feasts!

    Thanks for the comment on my blog, Mary Ann. I'd love to connect via Twitter. I'm here (I tried to find you, but no luck:)

  3. I love that cover. This looks like a great not just for kids book. Don't forget to link to Diversity Rocks