secrets of the garden

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

Alice loves it when spring arrives and they can start planting the garden.  Her dad gets the soil ready for planting and then she and her brother start putting the seeds in.  It seems like a long time before the seeds finally sprout.  Then other seedlings are transplanted from pots and potatoes are sown.  Lettuce and radishes are ready to eat first, and Alice spots a rabbit munching on them too.  She also thinks a mouse might be eating the fallen corn.  Hawks hunt in the garden and there are plenty of insects too.  Autumn nears and harvest begins, and the food cycle of the garden is complete for another year.  Throughout the book, the chickens offer commentary about the cycle itself with information about herbivores and carnivores, compost, worms and much more. 

This is an outstanding example an information book for children.  The chickens give the book a lighter tone, even though they are the ones offering the hard science.  The story celebrates gardening, the food cycle, and having a place connects one with nature.  Zoehfeld’s writing is breezy and cheerful, setting just the right tone of exploration, wonder and science.

Lamont’s illustrations add to the delight.  They have a similar feel to Michael Rosen’s with the friendly characters.  The colors tend towards the subtler side, inviting close inspection and learning.

This is a choice book for units on the food cycle or for children looking for information that they will enjoy learning.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf.