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Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant

Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant
Written by April Pulley Sayre
Published in 2011 by Beach Lane Books, ISBN 978-1-442-421417
Grades PreK – 8
Get ready to clap your hands, stomp your feet, and shout out a rousing cheer for, of all things — vegetables! The latest work by author and poet April Pulley Sayre is a rowdy and glorious tribute to vegetables of all colors, shapes, and varieties. Just try to read this book silently. Instead, you’ll find yourself tapping your toes and looking for a read aloud audience as you take a trip through the stands at a farmer’s market, vividly depicted in oversize photographs set on backgrounds of alternating bold colors. “Oh boy, bok choy! / Brussels sprout. /Broccoli. Cauliflower. /Shout it out!” Readers will encounter vegetables both familiar and exotic while enjoying the clever language play – Sayre’s use of alliteration is particularly inspired. “Ask for asparagus. / Pea pods, please.” Back matter provides further information on how a vegetable is defined (yes, a tomato really is a fruit!) and encourages readers to experiment with how to cook and eat vegetables new to them. A perfect title for encouraging healthy eating habits and for celebrating the harvest season. “Veggies rock!”
Teaching Invitations
Grades PreK – 3
  • Patterns. The beautiful colorful images of vegetables set against alternating color backgrounds are a clear invitation to play with patterns, developing children’s mathematical reasoning. Provide students with actual vegetables (cut or whole) in a variety of shapes and colors (or images of vegetables if this is not possible) and model the creation of a pattern with the materials. Students can then use the veggies to extend patterns begun by the teacher and to create their own patterns for fellow students to extend. Take photographs of their veggie patterns and create a class big book to enjoy after the veggies have been eaten.
  • Descriptive Writing with Veggies. Bring in a variety of colorful and interesting vegetables. Work with students to brainstorm language that they could use to describe the smell, appearance, feel, and taste of the vegetables. Assign individuals or small groups to different vegetable varieties and ask them to compose a descriptive paragraph feature the vegetable.
  • Is it a Vegetable?: Classifying. In the back matter of Rah, Rah, Radishes, Sayre defines a vegetable. Read her definition along with several other definitions. You might also want to explore definitions for legumes. Bring in a variety of fruits and vegetables (and legumes)and invite students to examine their structure and interiors to determine a classification. After this scientific activity, snack on the data set!
Grades PreK – 8
  • “Shout it Out!” Students of all ages will enjoy the opportunity to perform and/ or choral read this rousing cheer. Sayre has written a collection of “chant” books that invite dramatic enactment. See the author’s website (linked below) for some audioclips of Sayre and students reading the “chant” titles.
  • Veggie Inspired Art. Show students images of works of art that feature vegetables specifically, or food more generally. Try to include art works in a variety of styles and media from classical still life to the irreverent vegetable creatures by Saxton Freymann. The images of vegetables in art on Wikimedia may be helpful to you (see link below). Collaborate with your art teacher to encourage students to create veggie art of their own.
  • Where does our food come from? Sayre obtains these glorious photographs at a local farmer’s market. Use the title as a launching point for an investigation of where food comes from. The marvelously informative title, How did that get in my lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth might be a starting point for your investigation. Students can report where their families shop and you might choose to invite in a grocery story manager, smaller market owner, and a local food grower to talk about their work. See our entry on The Honeybee Man at for more teaching ideas on local food sources.
  • Mentor Text. This toe tapping title can be used as a mentor text in a variety of ways. You could ask your students to innovate on the text pattern, writing their own rhyming cheer to celebrate just about anything. (Sayre’s website states that she is coming out with a companion title that will celebrate fruit; you and your students could try this out, too). Study the genre of the cheer, perhaps by obtaining the words to cheers used at your local high school games, and examine Rah, Rah, Radishes to see which elements of the genre are used by the author. Alternatively, you could use the text as a model to teach the technique of using alliteration to enliven writing. Have students identify the many examples of alliteration in the text and then revisit a piece of their own writing to try out the technique themselves.
  • Author Study. April Pulley Sayre has a large body of interesting work to enjoy with students in an author study. Her comprehensive website is a wonderful starting point to learn more about her and her passion for nonfiction writing for children. Read through many of her more than fifty books for children and work with your students to discern patterns in her writing style, her subject matter focus, and the themes that pervade her work.
  • Making Veggie Soup. Pair Rah, Rah Radishes with Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert and Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres and use these titles as inspiration to make vegetable soup in the classroom. Gather a variety of recipes for vegetable soup and compare both their written form (an opportunity to study the genre of the recipe) and their ingredients. Decide on a couple of different recipes to try and obtain slow cookers to cook the soup in the classroom. Involve the students in safe preparation of the vegetables for cooking.
  • Vegetables and Cultural Connections. Students are likely to be familiar with some of the vegetables in Rah, Rah, Radishes, while others will be new to them. Investigate the cultural connections of various vegetables, regionally and globally. You might want to read Grace Lin’s The Ugly Vegetables or other titles that explore world cooking, such as Bee Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park. Arrange for students to have opportunities to try foods that incorporate vegetables that they have never before tried.
Critical Literacy
  • Local Foods Movement. This title, like Gabby and Grandma Go Green by Monica Wellington (see our blog entry at ) features a local farmer’s market. This was likely a deliberate choice that the author made and reflects the author’s preference for locally grown foods. Invite your students to learn more about the local foods movement in the context of an inquiry into where the food they eat comes from. Discuss the terms local, sustainable, and global in relation to food growing practices and economics. Do a little local research of your own to identify food growers of various types in your area. Are there any CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) in the area? Invite local farmers, beekeepers, bakers, etc. to come talk to your class about their work. What are the reasons that someone would go to the trouble to seek out a local vendor and possibly pay more for the product (you could do some cost comparison between the farmer’s market and the local supermaket and/or a taste test comparison between veggies obtained at a farmer’s market vs. the suprermarket)? The Sustainable Table website may be of use to you in this investigation Also see our entry on The Honeybee Man at for more teaching ideas related local food sources.
Further Explorations
Online Resources
Author Website: April Pulley Sayre
Local Harvest
The Sustainable Table
The Edible Schoolyard
Farm to School
Stone Barns Center
Farm Service Agency: Kids
Wikimedia: Vegetables in Art
Ayres, K. (2007). Up, Down, and Around. Ill. by N.B. Wescott. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
  • A rollicking rhyming look at how garden vegetables grow – up, down underground, and on twining vines; the book culminates in a vegetable soup feast.
Butterworth, C. (2011). How did that get in my lunchbox?: The story of food. Ill. by L. Gaggiotti. Summerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
  • The author explores the origins of the food in a youngster’s lunch box, tracing the food’s sources, cooking, and distribution processes step by step. Detailed images enhance this informative and fun nonfiction picture book.
Ehlert, L. (1987). Growing vegetable soup. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.
  • This picture book, now a classic, features Ehlert’s signature bold illustrations and traces the growth and utilization of a variety of vegetables from seed to soup bowl.
Freymann, S. (2006). Fast food. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books.
  • You and your students will marvel at the author’s ability to transform ordinary vegetables into vehicles of all kinds (you have to see it to believe it!).
Henderson, K. (2008). And the good brown earth. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
  • While Gram carefully cultivates her garden patch, Joe scatters his seeds to the wind. They return from a vacation to find both gardens flourishing in different ways.
Katzen, M. (2005). Salad people and more real recipes: A new cookbook for preschoolers and up. Berkley, CA: Tricycle Press.
  • A wonderful collection of vegetarian recipes for kid cooks from the author of the Moosewood Cookbook.
Lin, G. (1999). The Ugly Vegetables. Watertwon, MA: Talewinds.
  • A young girl learns to appreciate the unusual looking vegetables in her mother’s garden after she tastes them in delicious Chinese vegetable soup.
Park, L.S. (2005). Bee-bim Bop. Ill. by H.B. Lee. New York: Clarion Books.
  • A very catchy rhyming overview of the steps involved in making Bee-bim bop, a traditional Korean dish.
Pollen, M. (2009). The omnivore’s dilemma: The secrets behind what you eat. Adapted by R. Chevat. New York: Dial Books.
  • In this title for intermediate grade readers, which has been adapted from an adult version, the author explores the sources of the food that comprises four very different meals and reviews the global implications for our food choices.
Waters, A. (1992). Fanny at Chez Panisse. Ill. A. Arnold. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Fanny’s mother is co-owner of a busy restaurant in Berkley, CA. In this book for intermediate grade readers, Fanny describes life in the restaurant. Included are a discussion of food sources and many recipes.

Remember to visit April Pulley Sayre’s website for a listing of her many wonderful titles for children!

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.