Runaway Radish: Book Review and Experiment
This post was written as part of the Gingerbread Stories from Around the World collection on Kid World Citizen.
As you all know, I love bilingual books, especially ones that are as fun to read as Runaway Radish/El Rabano Que Escapo by Janice Levy. During a trip to Mexico, Levy learned about the Night of the Radishes, an annual festival in Oaxaca, Mexico, featuring elaborate sculptures made from radishes. Fascinated, Levy created this story about Don Pedro, whose dreams of winning first place at the festival are threatened by a rebellious radish.
The radish jumps off Don Pedro’s table and runs out the door, determined to avoid being carved into one of Don Pedro’s sculptures. As they run through the town — crashing through the mercado (“market”), bumping into mariachis, and knocking a chef into a pot of mole sauce — the line of people (and animals!) chasing the radish grows. Will Don Pedro catch the radish? Will he win first prize in the contest?? I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will hint that he shares his prize money with all the new friends he made while chasing the radish!
Monkey and I loved this book right from the start. The text has a great rhythm that bounces you right along the cobblestone streets of this small town, and Monkey had fun singing along to the repeated refrain of the radish as she runs away from her pursuers. The drawings are fun and fit the quirky text beautifully.
Those of you familiar with the Gingerbread Man story will see the obvious parallels here: a favorite food that jumps off the table and runs right out the door. It turns out that stories like this appear around the world! Becky of Kid World Citizen has organized a series of book reviews based on this theme, and we are so happy to be participating! You can also read our post for her Cinderella Around the World series last fall.
The obvious activity to do with this book would be carving radishes; however, I am not about to do an activity involving knives with my three year old! Instead, I decided to focus on an aspect of the story that piqued my curiosity. Don Pedro is always careful to spray his radishes with water so they will stay fresh. Indeed, one of his main concerns with the runaway radish is that it will dry itself out and become so brittle it will break.
I am not very familiar with radishes, so I didn’t realize how great they are for carving. For example, I only know the tiny radishes served as an accompaniment at Mexican restaurants. I had no idea that when left in the ground they can grow to giant proportions. Here is a photo of my dear friend Daria (of Making Multicultural Music) with an enormous radish that she grew! As you can see, she is also a big fan of this book!
I wondered how much radishes would really be affected by the lack of water. Monkey recently watched a video involving a science experiment, so I decided it was a good time to try one of our own. We got some radishes (Monkey did try a bite of one, which he declared “spicy”), and we divided them into three piles. The first we left alone, the second we occasionally rinsed with water, and the third we put in a small bowl of water.
We ran the experiment for roughly 24 hours, until we could really see a difference among the three groups of radishes. It was so fun to see how excited Monkey got about the experiment. He was very diligent about rinsing the second group of radishes in water and examining them to see how they were different from the others. (I love that he is into posing for pictures now!)
In the end, we really could see what effect the water had on the radishes: The radishes in the first group (no water) were quite dry and bumpy, those in the second group (periodic rinsing in water) were less so, and those in the third group (submerged in water) were still very smooth.
Do you have a favorite experiment for budding young scientists? What foods have been running away from you lately?
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