For the protagonist of Nels Fredrickson’s clever illustrated story, Itza’s Garden, freedom means space to move and breathe, and time for nature to take its course. Itza is a hen trapped in a cage on a factory farm, required to produce three eggs a day or be carted off and rendered into chicken parts. Itza’s world, like our own, is a go-go, never slow down place. On the inevitable day when she produces only one egg, Itza is banished to the truck and certain doom, but when the truck crashes, Itza escapes and takes up residence in a median strip, becoming the favored pet of daily commuters who toss food to her from their cars.
Ostensibly a book for children, Itza’s Garden is also a commentary on factory farming and cruelty to animals. Fredrickson, a Santa Barbara resident for nearly 50 years, got the idea for the story from reading a news report about a freeway accident involving a truck loaded with chickens. Fredrickson and his wife were raising three daughters at the time, and from that germ of an idea, the story of Itza the intrepid hen grew. Many years later, Fredrickson and area artist John Iwerks put the story and illustrations on paper.
Fredrickson has worked in the construction trade and the commercial fishing industry, but he’s also a veteran surfer with an abiding love for the natural world. Itza’s Garden reminds us that nature keeps its own time, and that living things need to be free.
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