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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Another bouquet of seed reads

One of my favorite things to do is read books with the children in my life. Here is another round-up of gardening-themed books to inspire you and your listeners. Click here or here to read two other posts on this blog about more garden book favorites.

Zora's Zucchini 
By Katherine Pryor, illustrated by Anna Raff

Elementary ages. Three days into summer vacation Zora is bored, well, out of her gourd. While riding her bike she spots free zucchini starts at the hardware store. (Adults will be amused by the original sale sign crossed out to plead FREE!) Zora comes home with 12 zucchini starts and plants them all. This oversupply sets up the rest of the plot as Zora must figure out how to not let the food go to waste. The book's end notes posit that "about one-third of the world's food is wasted, which means that all the water, work and time it took to grow that food is also wasted." The story is a great springboard for discussion on what to do with extra food.

The Tiny Seed
By Eric Carle

Preschool and up. Carle's signature collages depict a journey through seasons as an autumn wind propels seeds across oceans, mountain tops and deserts. Children will enjoy identifying the tiny seed on each page. Naturally, the tiny seed outshines its travel companions and grows into something amazing.

The Watermelon Seed
By Greg Pizzoli

Preschool and up. This light-hearted story isn't really about gardening but invites a discussion about what a seed needs to sprout. Children who know that seeds need soil and sunlight will laugh at Crocodile's plight when he fears a swallowed watermelon seed will grow inside of him. (His dread of becoming a fruit salad is delightfully illustrated.) Use this tale to reassure children just learning about seeds that no, they won't become human seed pots.

My Garden
By Kevin Henkes

Preschool and up. A girl thinks her mother's garden is nice but too much work. If she had her way flowers would always bloom and change colors and patterns to her liking. She wouldn't have to shoo bunnies from the lettuce because the bunnies would be chocolate and she would eat them. This book is a great launching pad for a creative writing or art project of what listeners would want to grow in their own gardens.

If You Plant a Seed
By Kadir Nelson

Preschool and up. Beautiful illustrations, with few words on each vast spread, relate the story of a rabbit and mouse who balk at sharing the the fruits of their labors. The book covers gardening basics with the parallel to planting seeds of selfishness vs. seeds of kindness. Get this one just for the actual-size, intense stare-down of visiting birds.

A Gardener's Alphabet
By Mary Azarian

Preschool and up. Bold wood cut illustrations and sparse one-word or phrase entries take the viewer from A to Z. The meat, for grown-ups, is in the artist's introduction. She considers gardening the most difficult of the arts, with its demands of design and color skills, knowledge of plants and climate; and all at the mercy of fickle weather. Sometimes it's better to give up and go on a trip! Yet, "The garden provides such an intriguing challenge and is such a source of wonder and joy that to not garden is unthinkable."

The Curious Garden
By Peter Brown


Tokyo Digs a Garden
By Jon-Erik Lappano, illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka
Elementary ages. These two books follow the same theme of living in industrial scenes practically devoid of nature. In both a boy is an agent of change but with different reactions in their towns. Read together, these books frame a thoughtful comparison how our attitudes toward nature ultimately influence its survival. We may get what we deserve.

In The Curious Garden, a boy explores abandoned elevated train tracks and is surprised to see a few lonely, bedraggled flowers -- the only plants in the area. They need a gardener. The boy makes mistakes at first, but he nurses the patch to health. The restless garden yearns to explore and spreads through the city. The townspeople likewise come to life with renewed interest and appreciation for cultivating nature.

Second, Tokyo lives with his grandpa in a small house surrounded by tall buildings. Grandpa tells stories of how things used to be: deer in meadows, salmon leaping from streams. It's all gone. The city had to eat something after all, the grandfather shrugs. Tokyo receives three seeds from a strange woman; she promises him they will grow into whatever he wishes. It takes some searching to find a piece of ground, but sure enough -- when Tokyo plants them the seeds sprout and change the landscape overnight. The return of wildlife inconveniences people so much that they question, What are we going to do? Says Tokyo, "I think that we will just have to get used to it."

What are some of your favorite books?

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