Gardens Galore: Embrace Spring with These Great Books

From flower blossoms to farmers’ market bounty, these picture books celebrate all sorts of growing things and nurture an appreciation of backyard nature.
From flower blossoms to farmers’ market bounty to familial affection, these fun-to-share picture books celebrate all sorts of growing things and nurture an appreciation of backyard nature. Gardening1Anywhere Farm. by Phyllis Root. illus. by G. Brian Karas. Candlewick. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763674991. PreS-Gr 1–“For an anywhere farm,/here’s all that you need:/soil/and sunshine,/some water,/a seed.” Buoyant rhyming text assures readers that they can grow things wherever they might live—planting a plot in “an old empty lot,” starting a balcony garden, or utilizing imaginatively recycled containers to cultivate “Kale in a pail” or “Corn in a horn” (a trumpet). Depicting a charismatic cast of characters transforming an urban alleyway into a place filled with verdant greens and a vibrant sense of community, this empowering book demonstrates that it all starts with “Just one farmer—you.” Gardening2 Bee. by Britta Teckentrup. illus. by author. Doubleday. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781524715267. PreS-Gr 1–Lilting rhymes and luxuriantly hued artwork describe the activities of a busy bee as she visits “flowers of every hue,” gathers nectar, and disperses pollen. When she discovers an abundance of blossoms, Bee returns to the hive for help and is soon joined by a bevy of buzzing cohorts, “Stopping at every flower they find,/Leaving the gift of pollen behind.” Brimming with meadow flora and fauna, the exquisitely detailed illustrations also feature peek-through windows (hexagonally shaped like honeycomb, of course) that spotlight the bee and her actions. This lovely blend of art and science provides an enchanting introduction to pollinators. Gardening3Bloom. by Deborah Diesen. illus. by Mary Lundquist. FSG. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374302504. PreS-Gr 1–In this warmhearted picture book, family affection and a child’s burgeoning independence blossom along with a flower garden. Lyrical text and willowy watercolors describe all that has happened since a mother and daughter planted bulbs together in the fall—the first day of school, holiday celebrations, tears and laughter, moments large and small. In the meantime, the bulbs grow steadily under the ground, “Day by day, each day a bit bigger./Stronger./As certain as love.” Greeted by tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths in the springtime, the two share a tender hug, reminding readers that the garden is not the only thing that has flourished. Gardening4The Children’s Garden: Growing Food in the City. by Carole Lexa Schaefer. illus. by Pierr Morgan. Sasquatch. May. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781570619847. PreS-Gr 2–Inspired by a real place in a Seattle, Washington, this engaging picture book introduces a neighborhood garden lovingly tended by five smiling friends. The lyrical text and sun-drenched illustrations combine storytelling with horticultural basics, as the youngsters prepare soil and utilize well-worn tools, scatter and drop seeds of all kinds, keep everything “drip-drop damp” with rainwater and hoses, pull weeds, and enjoy the harvest’s bounty. There’s also time for fun—smelling and tasting fresh-grown peppermint, or resting beneath a cleverly constructed green bean tent. Inviting and inspiring, this luminous volume provides a hands-on paean to community gardening. Gardening5Fantastic Flowers. by Susan Stockdale. illus. by author. Peachtree. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-56145-952-0. PreS-Gr 2–Pairing rhythmic rhyming text with striking acrylic paintings, Stockdale introduces 17 flowers “in shapes that surprise and delight.” The realistic close-up images of a variety of exotic and common blooms from across the globe are expanded by imagination-stretching descriptions—“Prim ballerinas,/wild baboons./Snakes standing guard,/and spiraling spoons.” Photos of the blossoms, their common and scientific names, native ranges, and pollinators are appended along with a brief note explaining the importance of flowers in a plant’s life cycle. This entrancing blend of science and fancy invites readers to examine the natural world with a fresh eye. Gardening6The Forever Garden. by Laurel Snyder. illus. by Samantha Cotterill. Schwartz & Wade. May.  2017. Tr $19.99. ISNB 9780553512731. PreS-Gr 2–A pigtailed young narrator describes how she loves to spend time with her next-door neighbor, helping the older woman in her garden, sampling fresh-picked fruits and vegetables, and gazing together at the stars on summer evenings. Laurel is devastated when she finds out that Honey is selling her house and moving away to care for her mother, but the woman gently helps the girl understand that friendship—like her well-tended garden—endures long beyond the moment. Loosely based on a Talmudic story, this sweetly told and illustrated tale celebrates the generation-to-generation gift of caring for the earth and nurturing bounty of intergenerational friendship. Gardening7Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market. by Michelle Schaub. illus. by Amy Huntington. Charlesbridge. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-58089-547-7. PreS-Gr 2–Short poems and color-drenched artwork celebrate the sights, sounds, and tastes to be savored during a satisfying summer day at a bustling outdoor emporium. The mostly rhyming offerings start out in early morning, as local farmers “Harvest, sort,/wash, and load./Hop in trucks./Hit the road,” arriving early enough to get set up before the first customers appear. From a tongue-tempting array of fruits and vegetables, to aromatic baked goods (“a whiff of vanilla, a whisper of spice”) or “jars of liquid-gold alchemy” (honey), there is plenty to discover before the day is done. Readers will enjoy the poetry, along with deciphering the visual storylines revealed in the illustrations as the characters interact. Gardening8 (2)My Busy Green Garden. by Terry Pierce. illus. by Carol Schwartz. Tilbury House. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-88448-495-0. PreS-Gr 1–“There’s a surprise/in clever disguise/that hangs in my busy green garden.” Clearly shown dangling from a plant stem in the lush illustrations, this surprise—a chrysalis—becomes the focal point of a cumulative poem describing a whirlwind of backyard activity as a honeybee buzzes, a hummingbird flutters, an inch worm creeps along a leaf, and more. Suspense builds until the mystery is finally revealed and a glorious golden-yellow sulphur butterfly “wriggles and writhes,/then stretches and flies….” Detailed and realistic, the dynamic artwork depicts the action while also adding a seek-and-find challenge to the pages, and an informative endnote introduces each of the featured creatures. Gardening9 (2)My Sunflower. by Mark Mills. illus. by Mar Ferrero. Walter Foster Jr. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781633220843. PreS-Gr 2–This cleverly designed book delightfully encapsulates the life cycle of a plant with eye-catching paper engineering. Simple text and bright-hued artwork featuring a cast of cartoon-faced garden critters zoom in on a sunflower seed to introduce growing basics, as water gushes from a can, a sprout pops out of a seedcase, a stem grows taller via a pull-tab, and a giant 3-D bloom explodes off the page. A final spread provides more information and terminology (e.g., “germinate” and “photosynthesis”). An ooh-inspiring offering for gardening and/or growing things storytimes. Gardening10Plant the Tiny Seed. by Christie Matheson. illus. by author. Greenwillow. Jan. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780062393395. PreS-Gr 1–In her latest offering, Matheson combines succinct text, elegant collage artwork, and the opportunity for hands-on participation to bring the growing process to life. Children are instructed to press seeds down, wiggle fingers to add water, rub the sun to make it hotter, and tap a cloud for rain. It’s not long before sprouts push toward the sky and three different-hued zinnias blossom to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. In addition to the inviting interactive element, this book’s pacing and simplicity allow time for discussion—and absorption of the wonder of a flower. Gardening11What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward. illus. by Susie Ghahremani. Bloomsbury. Feb. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681190303. PreS-K–In this follow-up to What Will Hatch? (2013), succinct rhyming verses and soft-hued artwork explore the dazzling transformation of seed to plant. Seeds are introduced and depicted in their natural habitats on the left-hand page (“Fluffy, white./Taking flight”) while the resulting plant is featured on the right (“Dandelion”), allowing readers to make visual connections and comparisons. Charmingly depicted woodland creatures complete each scene, and several gatefolds (that open upward for a tall sunflower, or downward to offer an underground glimpse at carrots) add a sense of motion and surprise to the reading experience. Blending whimsy with realism, the gouache-on-wood illustrations make for an eye-pleasing and imagination-stirring treat.

For more picture books on gardens, read Joy Fleishhacker's "Green Thumbs and Bountiful Imaginations."

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