February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Green Thumbs and Bountiful Imaginations | Great Books about Gardens

Whether they are digging, planting, nibbling, nurturing, or dreaming, the characters in these colorful picture books convey the wonder and joy of things that blossom.

dig inDig In! By Cindy Jenson-Elliott. Illus. by Mary Peterson. Beach Lane/S & S. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442412613; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9781442441279.

PreS-Gr 1–Exhilarating discovery, buoyant play, and heaps of dirt permeate this appealing picture book as a child unearths hidden marvels in a garden plot—a worm, a rock, a seed, and more. Utilizing grainy textures and earthen tones, the linoleum-block-print illustrations provide close-up views of the youngster’s grubby hands and the below-ground action, while the brighter hues of a blue sky or pink worm offer contrast. Appropriate for both beginning readers and sharing aloud, the simple repetitive text and well-timed page turns build anticipation and encourage imagination. Kids will want to dig right in.

holeyHoley Moley! By Lois Ehlert. illus. by author. Beach Lane/S & S. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442493018; enhanced ebook $10.99. ISBN 9781442493025.

PreS-Gr 2–“See this hole?/I dug it!/I’m a mole.” An exuberant subterranean narrator takes readers along as she forages for food above and below ground in a thriving vegetable patch. Though tasty earthworms abound, she’s ready for a change, and instead invites garden “pests/to be my/dinner guests,” glomming down plant-destroying potato bugs, tomato hornworms, cabbage caterpillars, and more (identified at book’s end) until finally satiated (and ready for a larger home). Ehlert’s rhythmic rhymes and eye-grabbing cut-paper artwork will enchant readers while providing a nose-to-dirt glimpse at things often unseen.

lolaLola Plants a Garden. By Anna McQuinn. Illus. by Rosalind Beardshaw. Charlesbridge. 2014. Tr $15.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-694-8.

PreS-Gr 1–Inspired by the “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” rhyme in her book of poems, Lola can’t wait to plant her own garden. With Mommy’s help, she researches library books and chooses her favorite flowers, purchases seeds, and then plants. Though growing time is waiting time, she keeps busy, illustrating her own flower book, stringing together silver bells, and even making a colorfully clothed Mary Mary doll. Finally, the flowers bloom, providing the perfect opportunity for celebrating—and story sharing—with her friends. Part of an endearing series about a book-loving girl, this offering shines with family affection, sunny acrylic-on-paper artwork, and a succinct text that appeals to beginning readers and listeners alike.

nightThe Night Gardener. By Terry Fan and Eric Fan. Illus. by authors. S & S. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481439787; enhanced ebook $11.99. ISBN 9781481439794.

PreS-Gr 4–Life is dreary on Grimloch Lane, a dilapidated street drawn in faded sepia hues, until a mysterious gardener arrives and surreptitiously transforms the town’s trees into amazing animal topiaries. William, a lonely orphan, is awestruck as mornings reveal a stately owl, a bounding elephant, or a marvelous dragon dancing lithely across side-by-side trees. Warmer shades begin to blossom in the illustrations as multicultural residents gather to admire the living sculptures, relish outdoor activities, and tidy up their neighborhood. When William spots the gardener heading for the park, he’s invited along for a special moonlit night. Lovely artwork and an insightful telling make clear that though the leaves will fall and the sculptures fade, Grimloch Lane—and William—will remain forever changed. Magical and mesmerizing.

on the farmOn the Farm, at the Market. By G. Brian Karas. Illus. by author. Holt. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805093728; ebook $9.99. ISBN 9781250116512.

PreS-Gr 2–Karas’s lively storytelling and vivacious gouache-and-acrylic vignettes outline how food travels from farm to table. “On the Farm,” three community agriculturalists (and their children) make diligent preparations, picking and packing just-ripe vegetables, making and inventorying cheeses, and trimming and packaging mushrooms grown indoors. Early the next morning “At the Market,” tents and tables are set up, customers arrive to shop for farm-fresh foods, and everyone enjoys the festive atmosphere. This engaging picture book conveys a bounty of behind-the-scenes information, served up with enthusiasm for locally grown foods, appreciation for hard-working farmers, and a strong sense of community.

plants feed mePlants Feed Me. By Lizzy Rockwell. Illus. by author. Holiday House. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823425266; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780823433070.

PreS-Gr 2–Rockwell’s straightforward language and cheerful gouache-and-colored-pencil illustrations provide a basic look at a variety of plants and the different parts that we consume (leaves, bulbs, tubers, fruits, flowers, seeds, etc.). Throughout, the artwork expands the text with clear images and cut-aways of fruits and vegetables, labelled diagrams that illuminate the concepts introduced, and a group of grinning children who tend, harvest, and eat the produce. An inviting and informative offering for sharing aloud or beginning readers.

secrets of the vegSecrets of the Vegetable Garden. By Carron Brown. illus. by Giordano Poloni. Kane Miller. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 978-1-61067-413-3.

Pres-Gr 1–Simple text, vivid illustrations, and an interactive seek-and-find feature invite youngsters to take a closer look at garden flora and fauna. Questions are posed on right-hand pages, and youngsters shine a flashlight or hold the book up to the light to reveal the hidden-away answers. Page turns re-emphasize these visuals in black-and-white silhouette and provide brief explanatory text. Observation skills and curiosity are piqued as readers root around to discover which creatures live in the soil (worms), which animals feed in the rain (snails and slugs), which vegetables grow underground (potatoes and carrots), where tomato seeds are found (inside the fruit), and more.

bug gStories from Bug Garden. By Lisa Moser. Illus. by Gwen Millward. Candlewick. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763665340.

PreS-Gr 4–An abandoned garden becomes home to an assemblage of irresistible insects who explore their lush surroundings, engage in upbeat adventures, and find sweet contentment in friendship. Brave Cricket embarks on a grand adventure from atop a blowing-in-the-breeze gate; Bee puts aside the usual tasks in order to settle back, watch the clouds, and “Just be;” Earthworm shares her unique perspective on the beauty of flowers as she wiggles underground through “rainbows/of roots;” the friends gather to gaze skyward and admire a “spectacular show” (not fireworks, but flowers blooming). The accessible prose poems and colorful squiggle-filled illustrations flourish with fresh perspectives, gentle humor, and unadulterated charm.

timo'sTimo’s Garden. By Victoria Allenby. Illus. by Dean Griffiths. Pajama Pr. 2016. Tr $12.95. ISBN 978-1-927485-84-2.

Gr 1-4–After Timo signs up to participate in his village’s garden tour, the rabbit has one week to transform his garden from “good” to “great,” time he spends weeding, watering, planting, and obsessing rather than enjoying the company of his friends. When a drenching downpour results in a muddy mess, anxious Timo feels ready to give up, until his neglected buddies rally round, helping him to realize the importance of friendship. Brief chapters, language brimming with alliteration and rhyme, detailed artwork in luxuriant shades, and winsome animal characters give this early chapter book loads of appeal.

tokyoTokyo Digs a Garden. By Jon-Erik Lappano. Illus. by Kellen Hatanaka. Groundwood. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-798-6.

K-Gr 4–Tokyo’s house is completely enveloped by the concrete of a sterile-looking metropolis, though his grandfather still recalls his own childhood when the dwelling overlooked verdant forests and meadows rich in wildlife, now long gone (“Cities had to eat something, after all”). When an old woman offers the boy three seeds, explaining that they will grow into whatever he wishes, he plants them beneath a brick in his barren backyard. Three hardy wildflowers sprout the next morning, and before long, giant trees and shrubs engulf the urban landscape, broken hydrants transform streets into flowing rivers, and creatures ranging from bears to bison take up residence. It’s all a bit primordial, but Tokyo, surveying the wonders that now surround him, decides that they will just have to get used to it (“Gardens have to grow somewhere, after all.”) The digitally created artwork expands the well-written narrative with stylized images, sun-warmed colors, and delightfully rendered details. Thoughtful and imaginative, this modern-day fairy tale challenges readers to contemplate what they wish for their own world, and perhaps consider how they will bring it about.

up in the gardenUp in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. By Kate Messner. illus. by Christopher Silas Neal. Chronicle. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452119366.

K-Gr 3–From the snowmelt of early spring to autumn’s first frost, a child describes how she and her Nana tenderly plant, tend, and harvest a vegetable garden. The lyrical narration and handsome mixed-media artwork eloquently depict the hard work and easy-to-spot changes above ground, while also delving into the activities and interrelationships of the creatures that dwell near—and beneath—the soil. An author’s note provides more detail about the species introduced, and how they either help or harm plants. This exquisite and informative book is worth lingering over.

zoraZora’s Zucchini. By Katherine Pryor. Illus. by Anna Raff. Readers to Eaters. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-9836615-7-3.

PreS-Gr 2–Bored with summer vacation, a girl comes across 12 zucchini seedlings at the hardware store and takes them home to plant and nurture. By August, it’s clear that there’s no way her family could possibly consume all of the zucchini (even marinated, grated, baked, or barbequed). Never fear, Zora comes up with a solution, and with her family’s help, puts together a Garden Swap that brings the neighborhood together and leaves everyone with a variety of fresh produce. Watercolor illustrations in eggplant purples, sky blues, and leafy greens illustrate a lighthearted tale about problem solving, growing food, and community involvement.

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Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

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  1. Teaching kids the joy of gardening from a young age is one of the greatest things that we can do for the next generation. It instills an appreciation and understanding of so many things – where food comes from, the planet, science, and on an on.