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by Daniel Lewis

The Young Reader’s Edition of Michael Pollan’s bestselling exposé, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, is a lot like the original. Both books contain most of the same information, but the way in which this information is presented changes the book radically. The main difference is that the writing style (and I won’t say it has been dumbed-down) in the Young Reader’s Edition is a lot more blunt about Pollan’s ideas. The whole thing only took a few hours to read, whereas the original took a couple of weeks.

Dozens of pictures, graphs, charts, and side notes with cute names like “You’re eating what?” strategically placed throughout the book comprise the second change, and these make a big difference. It was worth reading the book just for the pictures; they don’t overwhelm the book, but they helped me visualize the scenes Pollan describes as he describes them. There’s a picture of Steer 534, the calf Pollan bought and tried to follow to Poky Feeders (spoiler alert: he’s not as adorable as I imagined he was) and an advertisement from the Corn Refiners Association, for instance.

To parallel Pollan’s style, this book “begs an unavoidable question:” Is it better? Better for what?Being the all important corollary here, I will say I think this book is better for a lot of people, and not just young readers. If you’re between the ages of 10 and 15, you’ll definitely find the book easy to digest (pardon the pun), but it’s also a great choice for more mature readers who don’t have a lot of extra time or just want a fast read..

However, if you’re able to read and enjoy The Omnivore’s Dilemma, its Young Readers Edition quickly begins to feel like fast food. It doesn’t have the philosophical depth, subtleties in language, and vivid descriptions of the adult version, which will leave the reader burning to get to the nearest farmer’s market. It has the macronutrients but not the flavonoids and anti-oxidants. Nevertheless, if you want to teach your middle school aged child much more about where her food comes from, this is the best way to do it. If she doesn’t like it, there’s always Food Inc.

A lover of food among other things, Daniel Lewis spends much of his free time cooking and reading cookbooks or articles about agriculture. He is 17, and lives in Saratoga, CA.