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Growing future farmers: "Coolbean" teaches kids about soybeans and more.

A PEER-REVIEWED SCIENCE BOOK might not sound like much fun—but perhaps you haven’t met Coolbean the Soybean, the hero of a new book for kids by CALS/UW-Extension agronomy professor Shawn Conley. It follows the adventures of a friendly, mohawked soybean named Coolbean as he learns about agriculture. Colorful, playful illustrations make the science come alive, and explanations are accurate but simple. To explain photosynthesis, for example—the process by which plants convert light into energy—Conley has two plants chatting about how good the sun feels and how it makes them strong. “The sun gives us our energy,” says Coolbean. “Without it we couldn’t make food ourselves.’”

There’s a serious intent behind the fun: to better educate children about agriculture and the science behind it as well as encourage interest in agriculture-related professions. Coolbean the Soybean was published by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America, with support from the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board. It is aimed at grades 3–5 and is being marketed to schools as well as to the general public. More information at http://go.wisc.edu/2cx0d7.