Wisconsin author Lisl Detlefsen received the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s “Book of the Year” award at AFBF’s annual convention last week in New Orleans. Her winning book, “Right This Very Minute,” is the first book published with the Foundation’s Feeding Minds Press.
“(‘Right this Very Minute’) shows a wide variety of children and families enjoying their daily meals and snacks before giving readers a snapshot of the work being done on farms to make these meals possible,” Detlefsen said. “Illustrator Renee Kurilla did an outstanding job on the stunning art. I love how she represented a wide variety of different families and farmers throughout the book.”
Detlefsen said that, after writing her first book, “Time for Cranberries,” she knew she wanted to write another agricultural-themed book.
“I was thinking about all the many steps involved to get food from the farm to the table. I wanted to explore the idea that while my family was eating a meal, at that very same time, all around the country, farmers were working hard to grow the food that would later become a part of it,” she said.
Detlefsen said she is excited to have her book named AFBFA’s “Book of the Year.”
“This award is very meaningful to me because helping to tell the story of modern family farming in America through children’s books has become a passion. I’m very thankful for the Ag Foundation’s devotion to this, too, and it was an honor and a joy to write the launch title for Feeding Minds Press,” she said. “To have that collaboration recognized with this award is very much a dream come true.”
Books considered for the award are required to have 100 percent accurate information about agriculture, with modern agricultural practices a priority. They must have a positive portrayal of agriculture and contain no stereotypical rural depictions or anthropomorphic animals. The stories should also be a topic of interest in agriculture and society. The book selected each year has curriculum developed to correlate with the book and is promoted by the Foundation throughout the year.
“I had the opportunity to give a speech when ‘Right This Very Minute’ received the award, and it was very rewarding to talk to so many farmers afterward who were excited to see books accurately representing the work they do every day to bring food to the tables of others,” Detlefsen said. “We all need to eat every single day, and yet as most people move further away from growing their own food, we lose distance from understanding exactly what that takes.”
Detlefsen said she first became aware of AFBFA shortly after her first book was published in 2015. At the time, the Foundation was looking to host a program to bring children’s book authors to a cattle ranch and beef processing facility.
“The Ag Foundation wanted to give authors a chance to visit a working ranch and ask the ranchers questions, but they also wanted to understand more about how we as writers do our jobs and the publishing process,” she said. “Eventually, the Ag Foundation decided that one way to help get more accurate agricultural books into the market was to form their own publishing company, and Feeding Minds Press was born.”
Also an agriculture-themed book, “Time for Cranberries,” Detlefsen’s first book, was a project close to her heart.
“It took 10 years to find the right publishing home for that book, but it was a story that I knew I couldn’t give up on,” she said. “My husband is a fifth-generation cranberry grower, and we live on a continuously family-owned cranberry marsh in central Wisconsin. From the time that I saw my very first harvest as a college student, I knew the process belonged in a book.”
Although she grew up drinking cranberry juice, Detlefsen said she didn’t understand what went into producing that product. Living on the marsh has allowed her to better understand the importance of agriculture, and writing books about agriculture has also given her the opportunity to research other types of farms, something she looks forward to sharing in future books.
Detlefsen said she believes it is important for kids to learn and understand where their food is coming from and what it takes for it to reach their plates and grocery stores.
“In children’s literature, we talk a lot about windows and mirrors, meaning that young readers need to view the worlds of others, and they also need to see the world they live in reflected on the page,” she said. “When I first began writing about agriculture, I thought I was writing windows for kids who are not immersed in farming. What I discovered was that I was also writing mirrors for kids from farming families who so rarely have the opportunity to see themselves accurately depicted in books.”
“Right This Very Minute” is available for preorder wherever books are sold and will be officially released Feb. 5. Besides this book and “Time for Cranberries,” Detlefsen authored “If You Had a Jetpack” and a book to be released later this year “1, 2, 3, Jump!” More information on her work can be found at www.lislhdbooks.com, Twitter and Facebook.