________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 28. . . .March 22, 2013


Justine McKeen, Eat Your Beets. (Orca Echoes).

Sigmund Brouwer. Illustrated by Dave Whamond.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
55 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $6.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-55469-933-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55469-934-6 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-45980-444-9 (epub).

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Meredith Cleversey.

**½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



“Hey guys!” Justine said, looking at the mushy food that came up to her middle. “Help me out of here. I have a great idea you can help me with!”

“Oh no,” Safdar said.

“Oh no,” Michael said.

“Maybe you should take her away with the garbage,” Blatzo told the driver. Blatzo took the kitten from inside his shirt and set it on the ground. It ran toward the mother cat. “Justine’s great ideas are never great. And they always get us in trouble.”

“Just tell her no,” the driver said. “How hard is that?”

“Hey driver,” Justine said. “What’s your name? You can help us, too. It’s a great idea, and you’ll be saving the planet.”

“Well,” Blatzo said to the driver, “I guess you’re about to find out what I mean.”


Justine McKeen, Eat Your Beets is the fourth book of the “Justine McKeen” books in the “Orca Echoes” series by Sigmund Brouwer. While helping a friend look for a stray cat, Justine McKeen ends up in her school’s dumpster where she discovers tons of rotting leftover food from the cafeteria. Soon, Justine forms a plan using the wasted food as a way to save the environment while also helping the stray cat and her kittens. Reducing the portions of food given to kids in the school cafeteria will lower the amount of waste the school produces. And by donating the leftover food to a local animal shelter, more resources will be available to care for the homeless animals of the community. Justine knows this new idea will help save the planet. She just needs to convince everybody else of it, too!

internal art     The initiative Justine displays in this story is endearing, and her efforts to help the environment are creative and ambitious. Justine McKeen, Eat Your Beets shows readers how a little consideration and small changes in day-to-day living can make a big impact. Justine’s specific idea to use leftover cafeteria food to feed animals at a local shelter might not be realistic for all places, and her method of digging rotten food out of the dumpster and dragging it into the school cafeteria is not necessarily the best way of promoting her plan. Her spirit, however, can be admired, and her desire to help her community is inspiring.

     This story is told in short, easy to read chapters, and the full-page illustrations by Dave Whamond showcase some of the tale’s scenes. The dialogue between Justine and her friends is often humorous, and readers will smile at her somewhat over the top antics. The book concludes with a section of facts about food waste around the globe and tips for kids who want to help prevent it.

      Justine McKeen, Eat Your Beets shows how a normal girl can make a big difference in her community. However, the plot of this tale occasionally gets a little off-track. Some of the chapters in this book, such as when Justine takes garbage bags through her neighbourhood and is chased by several curious dogs, are not directly related to the plot and do not add much to the story. Justine also gets her idea to help the environment in chapter four, but it takes nearly until the end of the book before the idea is revealed. It would have been beneficial to provide readers with an early explanation of what Justine’s idea was, as well as provide a chapter or two showing how she and her friends put the idea into action.

      While greater explanation and more detail about Justine’s dumpster idea would allow readers a greater appreciation for her efforts, Justine McKeen, Eat Your Beets is still a fun glimpse into how kids can make a difference in their community and help the environment.


Meredith Cleversey, a librarian in Cambridge, ON, loves to read, write, and live in a world of pure imagination.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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