Review By CAROLYN M. MULLIN
Raise your hand if you love New Orleans? I know I do… and so does most of America. It’s given us Mardi Gras, The Saints, Creole food, iconic vampires, and one heck of a vacation spot. It’s a place where magic, myth, and mystery converge, but if you’re a local it’s home and your neighbors are just as inspiring, colorful, and legendary as the city’s cultural legacy. Mr. Okra is just one such man, and he’s the subject of a new children’s book, Mr. Okra Sells Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, written by my dear childhood friend, Lashon Daley.
Back in high school, Lashon used to mock me for being a vegetarian, but my what a decade or so can do! After leaving our hometown of Miami, she spent a good chunk of time as a resident of New Orleans, and now she’s a vegan (woo!) pursuing a second master’s in storytelling at UC Berkeley, and I couldn’t be more excited for her first published book. The story follows Mr. Okra as he sings his wares – “I got PEACHES, PEARS, and APPLES.” – throughout the equally vibrant NOLA neighborhoods in his mobile fruit and vegetable truck. As readers flip through the pages, the colors of the produce call to mind numerous iconic landmarks: “The skin of the EGGPLANT is as dark as the coffee at Cafe du Monde.” It’s such a great, fun and different way to explore New Orleans.
And I personally can’t get enough of Mr. Okra, the youngest of 15 children who took over the family business. He seems like someone I’d want to listen to for hours. At the back of the book, he remarks,
“I love selling fruits and veggies to the people of New Orleans because there are people who can’t get to the big stores and people who don’t really like to go to the big stores… They depend on me and I depend on them. We are all family.”
This publication is a fun, inviting, veg-friendly way to explore one of our nation’s most beloved cities. One tiny heads up to Vegbooks readers: there is one page that may not tickle your tastebud, which compares the variety of fruits and veggies to the animals at the Audubon Zoo. Swap “zoo” for “sanctuary” and you’ll be good to go.
Ages 4 to 8.