plant a pocket of prairie

Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Betsy Bowen

Prairies used to cover vast swaths of the United States, but are almost entirely gone now.  In this nonfiction picture book, young readers are invited to create their own small prairies at home.  Root offers ideas for what native prairie plants should be planted first and then ties each plant to a type of wildlife that will arrive along with the plants.  Butterfly weed invites monarchs to your yard.  Asters and rough blazing star bring even more butterflies.  Toads, birds, mice, bumblebees, and more may appear in your little garden.  And who knows, if lots of people plant a little prairie, eventually we may have prairies back across the nation.

Root has written this book in poetry that rhymes at times and others not.  There are rhymes at the ends of lines, then internal rhymes within a line, and other times it is the rhythm and flow of the words themselves that create the structure.  It has a strong organic feel to it, the names of the plants flowing into those of the animals they will bring to your yard.  The book ends with information on all of the plants, animals and insects mentioned in the book as well as further information on the state of prairies in the United States and where you can go to see a prairie.

The illustrations by Bowen are light and free.  They focus on the plants and animals, showing them clearly.  Along the way, one bird moves from page to page, planting seeds that grow into the garden and building her own nest in the new habitat.  There is a sense of the garden expanding and building as the book continues, yet that light feel continues throughout. 

A song of the prairie, this book will inspire young gardeners to try native plants and is a great addition to curriculums in schools doing their own garden programs.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from digital galley received from University of Minnesota Press and NetGalley.