The Good Garden by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault
The author of One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference continues to explore the impact of education and funding on poor communities. Here, she has written a book about a farming family in Honduras who learn techniques that allow them to grow enough food to feed themselves and earn enough money to secure a positive future for the family. Maria Luz and her family have run out of food so her father must head out of town to find enough work to pay for the seed to plant next year because they will have to consume what they would have saved. He leaves Maria Luz in charge of the garden while he is gone. At school, she learns about compost, terrace gardening, and other ways to keep the soil fertile. When her father returns, he is surprised by her success. He and Maria Luz work with her teacher to avoid selling their produce to the local coyote and instead sell it themselves at a market and purchase seeds themselves. Through one man’s efforts to educate, an entire village is transformed.
The author here has taken her subject very seriously, as is appropriate. The text is lengthy for a picture book, but helps explain the impact of food insecurity around the world. While this is not a picture book to add to a story time, it will be of value for elementary children who are learning about the world, gardening and food. It is a book that teaches and informs. Smith Milway’s text does not shy away from the control of the coyote, the fear of starvation, or the loss of families who leave to live elsewhere. Her words convey it all with a seriousness and gentleness that is lovely to read.
Daigneault’s illustrations seem to glow with an inner sun. Her use of colors is dynamic at times and subtle at others. In all of her pictures, there are flowing lines that help depict the beauty of the Honduran landscape. The illustrations help bring the text to life, making the book even more appealing.
An important book for children to better understand the world they live in, this book is informative and radiant. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.
You can visit The Good Garden website at: http://www.thegoodgarden.org/ where you can learn, play or help make a difference.
And check out the book trailer:
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Yucky Worms by Vivian French, illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg
A young boy was in his grandmother’s garden when she found a worm. He is disgusted by it, but his grandmother insists that he should be friends with worms. She then returned the worm to the ground to demonstrate which end of the worm was which. The book goes on to discuss in the grandmother’s voice different aspects of worms, what they eat, how they survive the winter, what worm castings are, and how they help the plants in the garden. The illustrations are light-hearted but can quickly become scientific when called for. This is a great blend of picture book and nonfiction facts presented in a winning way.
French’s use of a grandmother narrator works well here, framing the nonfiction in a story that makes it very approachable. It also allows the narrator to explain misconceptions that the young boy has about worms, like the widely held belief that worms can be cut in two and still survive. Not true! Ahlberg’s illustrations offer asides by the worms themselves, a mole carrying a grocery list, and wonderful views of below the ground.
A great book to share with children who want to know more about these wiggly creatures in the garden, this book reads like a picture book and offers facts for children who are looking for them. Readers of the book will quickly learn that worms are far from yucky. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
How Does a Seed Grow? by Sue Kim, photographs by Tilde
A visually interesting book all about seeds, sprouts and the harvest. Each page is dedicated to one kind of seed complete with photographs of the seeds. That then unfolds to show a large photograph of the seedling in a cutaway format that shows below the ground to the roots and up above the ground for the leaves. Readers then unfold the page one more time to see a photograph of a child holding the fruit or vegetable. The text is very simple and rhyming. The illustrations are the heart of this book. It is a book guaranteed to fascinate children not only with the unfolding pages but with the details of the seeds and seedlings.
The book covers tomatoes, blueberries, bell peppers, peas and oranges. The brief rhymes do give a sense of the needs of plants from loose dirt to warmth to water and sunshine. Readers will enjoy looking at the differences in the shapes and sizes of the seeds and the different ways that the seeds grow. The children pictured with the fruits and vegetables are multicultural. One quibble is that some of the pictures are a little blurred, which is noticeable when compared with the crispness of the other images.
This book will work well in a classroom setting or in a story time focused on spring and plants. The foldout pages will not survive circulation at a library for long unless they are reinforced with tape. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.
My Garden by Kevin Henkes
A little girl helps her mother in her garden. It is a nice garden, but if the little girl could create her own garden, it would be very different! There would be no weeds. No plants would die. If you imagined the flowers different colors and patterns, they would change. Rabbits would not eat lettuce, instead they would be chocolate rabbits meant to be eaten. There would be lots of birds and butterflies, and unique things would suddenly grow. This beauty of a book will inspire children to dream their own gardens and perhaps plant a seashell to see what will happen.
With his gentle feel, Henkes has created a creative look at gardening that will have a permanent spot in everyone’s spring story pile. His art is done in ink and watercolors, offering a soft palette perfect for the story. The flights of fancy in the book are whimsical and wonderful, capturing a welcoming friendly invitation to explore a garden of dreams.
I can see this leading to a craft where children design their own imaginary gardens or write a story about what should be in their gardens. It is such a springboard for dreams and imagination! Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by Brimful Curiosities.
Strega Nona’s Harvest by Tomie dePaola
Rejoice! A new Strega Nona book is here!
Every spring, Strega Nona plants her garden with seeds saved from the year before. She carefully keeps records of where things were planted previous years and never plants them in the same place. The garden is planted during a full moon, and is done perfectly with straight rows. Big Anthony chafes under these rules and Bambolona’s bossiness, but he does his best. Watching Strega Nona, he learns what her little bit of magic is to make the plants grow strong. Then he finds some forgotten seeds and decides to prove to everyone that he can do just as well himself. Needless to say, things grow out of hand and Big Anthony has to find a way to get himself out of the situation with funny results.
DePaola’s format is classic Strega Nona with his great lines, bright colors,and signature style. The book has both large illustrations and smaller ones with white space between them, lending them a comic strip style that is recognizably dePaola. His writing is clever, simple and great fun. The Italian that is thrown in makes it a joy to read aloud as do the various character voices.
An feast of autumnal fun featuring Strega Nona can only be delicious. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.
The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen and Irene Luxbacher
When Poppa moves into an apartment, he leaves behind his big glorious garden. But Theo comes up with the idea of them having an imaginary garden instead of a real one. That way it will fit on his small balcony with ease. Poppa purchases a large canvas for them to paint on and a pair of matching gardening hats too. The two build the imaginary garden in the same way gardeners really do. They start with a wall, the blue sky and the rich earth. From there, they follow the seasons with crocuses and scilla starting out in spring. But Poppa must leave on holiday just when it is time to paint the newly blooming tulips and daffodils. Will Theo be able to handle the imaginary garden on her own?
This book works on so many levels. The writing and art are clever and inviting. Theo and Poppa’s relationship is genuine and winning with no saccharine contrivances. The use of art to dream, immerse one’s self, and create connections is done with a skillful hand and never becomes didactic.
Perfection for young art students, grandparents, and for a spring story time. This one is appropriate for ages 3-5 and grandmas and grandpas too.
A Garden of Opposites by Nancy Davis
This bright, graphically-interesting and fun book offers pairs of opposites in a garden setting. The opposites are very basic such as open/closed, long/short, and asleep/awake. Davis’ illustrations are big and bold, filled with bright colors that will shout out to a group easily. Equally likeable is the font and text size which will work well for reading aloud but also for new readers just figuring things out.
Recommended as a cheery spring opposite book, this one is perfect for toddlers ages 1-3.