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Friday, April 15, 2011

Another season of Seed Reads

By Jennifer

I love children's books, and I love gardening. So what could be better than children's books about gardening? Just one thing: finding a child who enjoys reading them with you.

Continuing the theme of an earlier post, here is a new crop of my family's favorites: (Book cover images are courtesy of Amazon.com.)

Up, Down and Around
By Katherine Ayres, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

Preschool and up. Vegetable crops are the vibrant stars here, as the simple text identifies which plants grow up, which grow down, and which grow ... you guessed it, all around. The vivid pictures show the garden from all perspectives, even cut-away views of animal habitats. Young children will like spotting the bugs on each spread, and the culminating garden lunch just might inspire some new veggie tasting.

Seeds! Seeds! Seeds! 
By Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

Text for elementary ages, with activities for all ages. One wintry day Buddy receives an intriguing package from his grandfather. The box is full of wrapped bags, with a note to open one over the next five days. Each contains all the supplies for a project with seeds. The clean cut-out collage illustrations include pages with actual-size seeds --  I can verify the scale because my 3-year-old son enjoyed sorting seeds from our stash onto the matching pictures. And that's the magic of this book: the narrative invites participation. As Buddy's excitement and knowledge grows, so too will the reader's. Want to be a favorite grandparent, aunt or uncle? Make a package like this one.

Tops & Bottoms
Adapted and illustrated by Janet Stevens

Elementary ages. My 7-year-old son picks this one over and over to read. It is the story of poor, but clever Hare's plan to get the most out of rich, lazy Bear's fallow land. If Bear will donate the land, Hare will do all the gardening, and they'll split the harvest. Bear gets to choose which he wants -- tops or bottoms. Only trouble is, Hare chooses the crops. Children who have a basic knowledge of how veggies grow (hey! like those who have read Up, Down and Around) will especially delight in Hare's craftiness and be able to conspire alongside him. Reinforcing the tops and bottoms concept, the layout of this book is shifted vertically so you turn the pages up, rather than to the left. 

The Giant Carrot
By Jan Peck, illustrated by Barry Root

Elementary ages. Each member of the family has a different aim in tending the carrot seed they plant in their dusty, dilapidated yard. Even as they argue over which carrot dish will be tastier, they work together to help the carrot grow. Through the text's repetition the reader may discover that the carrot matches the signature trait of each family member: tall, wide, strong and ultimately sweet, just like the sweet little sister whose singing and dancing really made the carrot thrive, despite her family's skepticism. The story includes a recipe for sweet carrot pudding.

Miss Penny and Mr. Grubbs
By Lisa Campbell Ernst

Elementary ages. For 48 years Mr. Grubbs has resented the blue ribbon-winning garden prowess of his next-door neighbor Miss Penny. He decides to sabotage her garden by introducing a pair of rabbits into her patch. Stymied, Miss Penny cheerfully keeps trying to save her crops. As rabbits do, two becomes many, many more. Meanwhile Mr. Grubbs is so consumed with spying on Miss Penny's battle that he neglects his own garden entirely. At season's end Miss Penny goes to the county fair anyway. The ending of the book seemed a little abrupt; I expected more of a resolution in regards to Mr. Grubb's feelings. By not doing so, however, the book provides a great springboard for discussion, and any moral conclusions are the reader's own.

The Empty Pot
By Demi

Elementary ages. When the Chinese emperor needs to name a successor, he decides to let the flowers choose. All children will be given special flower seeds, and whoever produces the best in a year's time will be crowned. Young Ping, who can make anything grow as if by magic, seems a shoo-in for the emperor's contest. But he can't make the seed sprout! Demi's illustrations are elegant yet simple. In the most basic of strokes the artist conveys Ping's mounting disappoint and shame, amidst a backdrop of changing seasons. Ultimately, because Ping's father tells him he did his best, Ping makes an offering to the emperor anyway. That is just lesson from this book.

Tell us -- what are some of your favorite gardening books?



Anonymous said...

Your whimsical reviews remind me of The Reading Rainbow and bring back memories from my own childhood. "Tops and Bottoms" is a favorite of ours and I can't wait to purchase "Up, Down, all Around." Thank you for this blog post!

RuthM said...

My 4 year old is in love with gardening and books about it. Her favorites are "Planting a Rainbow" by Lois Ehlert and "The Tiny Seed" by Eric Carle. We definitely need to check these ones out, thank you for the recommendations!