Tag Archive: gardens

three little peas

Three Little Peas by Marine Rivoal

Two little peas jump down from their pea plant to get some air.  They head out on an adventure across the garden.  They visit a cat, some snails, and even try out how it feels to be a flower or a different kind of plant.  They go high and low, exploring together.  But when they reach a frightening part of the garden filled with insects and animals, they try to run away.  Then they find a safe place in the warm soil where they hide.  Only to become a large pea plant of their own the next spring, and then one little pea jumps free, making it three little peas.

The story here is simple enough for a toddler to enjoy and they will love going on an adventure along with two charming green peas.  The peas pop in their green on the page where everything else is black and white.  But oh my, what a black and white world it is!  Rivoal does her art using etching and the effect is beautifully layered, almost crystalline forms.  The illustrations show below ground as well with rocks and other objects hidden there.  Even the blades of grass are lovely in the attention to detail and their grace.

Stunningly lovely and unique illustrations elevate this simple picture book to something magnificent.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.


Underground by Denise Fleming

Explore the wonders of what happens underground in a garden with this picture book from the Caldecott Honor medalist, Denise Fleming.  This book takes the joys of digging in the dirt one step farther, offering a simple poem that invites children to explore and then illustrations that show a cross section that reveals all of the action happening below the surface.  Roots grow, moles and chipmunks make tunnels, a turtle lays her eggs, worms are pulled by a robin. 

Fleming’s simple poetry makes this a great option for small toddlers, those same ones with the dirty hands from digging in the dirt.  She then takes her signature pulp-paper collage and brings life to the book.  The pulp paper offers a texture and richness that is specific to that medium.  It is bright, deeply colored, and has a dimension that is remarkable.  Here the use of it to build that rich underground world is ideal.  The illustrations are large enough to use with a group, but detailed enough that there is plenty to explore up close.

Turn to the back pages for more details about the animals shown in the illustrations.  Ideal to read in the garden with a pail and shovel nearby for immediate exploring.  It will also make a great addition for any spring-themed units or story times.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from library copy.

jo macdonald had a garden

Jo MacDonald Had a Garden by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant

Celebrate gardening with this cheery picture book that features Old MacDonald’s granddaughter, Jo MacDonald.  The verses here are set to the same music as the original, except this time it’s all about planting a garden rather than the animals on a farm.  In the garden there is some sun, some soil, a worm, seeds, water, animals, plants, and then food!  Watching the illustrations, children will see the garden take shape and then watch the plants grow until they are ready to be harvested. 

Quattlebaum has cleverly written verses that can be acted out by preschoolers as the book is shared.  At times, the children in the illustrations show the movements that could be done, and at other times they would be easily figured out by a savvy teacher or librarian.  I can see lots of children this spring enjoying planting imaginary gardens all together. 

Bryant’s illustrations have a wonderful sense of detail to them.  Each page has animals to glimpse in the garden, including a cardinal and a butterfly that are on almost every page.  This is a book that children will enjoy looking at and exploring.

Get your voice warmed up and be ready to wiggle like a worm with this new version of Old MacDonald!  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Dawn Publications.

Review: Mossy by Jan Brett


Mossy by Jan Brett

Mossy loved living at Lilypad Pond.  She spent so much time along the banks that moss and then small plants started to grow on her shell.  She became a walking garden and liked to look at her reflection in the water to see how her garden was growing.  On day, she met a male turtle named Scoot at the pond.  The two were smitten immediately.  But just as they were about to meet, Dr. Carolina, who owned a museum, picked up Mossy and took her away to be the center of a new display.  Mossy spent several seasons at the museum, missing Scoot but being well cared for.  She was a very popular exhibit.  So when Tory, Dr. Carolina’s young niece, noticed how sad Mossy seemed and how lonely, there was a big decision to be made.

Brett’s story speaks to the importance of leaving living creatures in their native habitat to live their own lives.  It is a subject handled delicately here with no abusive storyline at all, just a general sense of sadness, which is perfect for young children.  The book is set at the turn of the century with the clothing and use of horse-drawn carriages giving clues.

As always, Brett’s artwork is simply beautiful.  In each two-page spread, she gives the main image a frame and then has several additional pictures that either add to the story or the setting.  We get to see different plants up close, glimpses of the museum even when it is not in the storyline, and Scoot waiting at the pond. 

This is not a book to be read quickly or with a group, instead it’s one to linger over and see the details of the artwork.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

thats not a daffodil

That’s Not a Daffodil by Elizabeth Honey

When Tom’s neighbor gave him something that looked like an onion and said it was a daffodil, Tom was very skeptical.  Mr. Yilmaz told him to plant it to find out.  So they planted it in a large pot and Tom waited, and waited, and waited with nothing happening at all.  When Mr. Yilmaz asked how the daffodil was doing, Tom answered that it was not a daffodil, it was a desert.  So the two watered the pot.  Later, Mr. Yilmaz asked again and Tom said that the small green point sticking out of the dirt was a green beak, not a daffodil.  The beak slowly began to open.  Soon the daffodil looked more like a hand, hair, and even a rocket!  It even survived being toppled over by a dog.  Until finally, Tom gets to show Mr. Yilmaz exactly what that onion turned into.

Not only does this book perfectly capture the wonder of gardening with children with the impossibly long wait for results, but it also offers a beautiful zip of creativity along with it.  As Tom learns about patience with his daffodil, he also incorporates it into his playing.  The writing is simple and straight forward, yet has a sense of playfulness too.

Honey’s illustrations appear to be a mix of watercolor and pastels that have a homey warmth.  They also have a great texture that works well for the rough ground, dirt in the pot, and sweater knit.  At the same time, the watercolor smoothness plays against that. 

A sweet book about patience, gardening and creativity, this book would make a great addition to springtime story times.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

seed magic

Seed Magic by Jane Buchanan, illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb

Rose and her brothers make fun of the old man who feeds the pigeons all day long from his wheelchair.  When Rose asks him why he likes pigeons so much, he tells her how beautiful they are.  But Rose can’t see it at all; she thinks that gardens are much more lovely than birds.  So Birdman gives her some seeds to put outside her window and grow a garden on her windowsill.  Rose knows that it won’t work, since there’s no dirt for them to grow in, but Birdman is insistent that they will grow a garden on her bare windowsill.  Her brothers make fun of her for even trying, but Rose starts to dream of the incredible flowers that could sprout there.  Then one day, something magical does happen, much to her surprise and delight.

Buchanan’s writing is poetic.  It has a strong rhythmic quality that beats to the heart of the urban setting perfectly.  She plays with imagery, describing the sunflower seeds as “black as tar, slick as oil” as Birdman share them with Rose.  This is a book that speaks to the power of making connections, rather than dismissing those around us.  It is also about beauty and seeing it in the most unlikely places.

The illustrations have a wonderful texture and thickness to them, the paint layered and deep.  Riley-Webb uses plenty of color to depict the urban park: greens, blues, and rich browns.  There is movement to her illustrations from the people, the birds and the gardens.  It is a fresh way to show a city, rather than the cold of concrete.

This book celebrates nature in an urban setting and the sharing of beauty.  Thanks to the rhythm of its writing, it’s a great read-aloud as well.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.  

humming room

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

When Roo’s parents are murdered, it’s her ability to hide that saves her, as she retreated to her favorite spot under their trailer.  There she can look at the items she has “collected” or stolen, and she can press her ear to the ground to hear the tiny movements of animals, worms and roots.  After spending some time in foster care, Roo is taken to live on an island with her wealthy uncle who looks very similar to Roo’s father but with none of the carefree spirit her father had.  The island is on the St. Lawrence and the house used to be a tuberculosis sanatorium.  Now Roo is left there with little attention from her often-away uncle, and two servants.  The island is filled with life, including tantalizing glimpses of a wild boy who seems to live on the river.  Roo has to discover the truth of the strange house and the many secrets it holds.

Potter has stated that this is a novel inspired by The Secret Garden, and readers familiar with that work will definitely see it woven into this story.  At the same time, this book stands on its own beautifully.  It is a delightful blend of character and setting.  Roo is a prickly child, one who would be difficult to relate to except for her connection to nature.  That small piece of her character alone makes her human and accessible for the reader.  She is also prickly for very good reasons, including her parents’ death but also her misery of a life before their death.  The reader understands Roo deeply.   The secondary characters are all quirky and fascinating as well, especially the wild boy.

Then there is the setting.  Potter brings the St. Lawrence, the island, and this house to life.  This story could not be set anywhere else, as the setting is so closely married to the story.  The river is a large part of the book, including Roo’s growing understanding of its moods and the isolation of the island.  The house is central to the story as well, brooding and huge, its very walls hiding secret doors to wonders.  Then there is the garden itself, because of course there is a secret garden, and its rebirth that echoes Roo’s. 

Haunting and lovely, this book unfolds like the petals of a flower as each new discovery is made.  Environmentalism permeates the book in a gentle, green way that leaves readers wanting to connect with nature and preserve it without ever being preached to about the issue.  This is a delicate, wondrous read that is sure to be a hit with fans of The Secret Garden or those of us who are already fans of Ellen Potter.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel & Friends.


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