Goodnight, Veggies by Diana Murray and Zachariah OHora

Goodnight, Veggies by Diana Murray and Zachariah OHora

Goodnight, Veggies by Diana Murray and Zachariah OHora (9781328866837)

At sunset the garden needs its rest, but the vegetables are tossing and turning. Turnips are “tucked in tightly” while potatoes are closing their eyes. Tomatoes are humming lullabies and cauliflowers cuddle by droopy pea pods. The baby lettuce and baby carrots are snuggling while rhubarb reads stories to the broccoli. Soon the other vegetables are calm as the cucumbers. As the moon gets bright all of them are sleeping, tired from growing all day and all night.

Written in a musical rhyme, this picture book is ideal for reading aloud to toddlers and preschoolers. It takes a spring theme of gardening and turns it into a bedtime book that will make everyone tired, since little children are growing day and night too. Throughout the book, humor cleverly used alongside alliteration, making the book a treat for adults as well.

The art by OHora is marvelous. Readers can follow a worm through the garden as he tunnels past the tired veggies and finally falls asleep himself. The images move from showing root vegetables to garden beds from above, creating a winding path through this abundant garden.

Clever and seasonal, this spring bedtime book is one worth picking. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

In My Garden by Charlotte Zolotow

In My Garden by Charlotte Zolotow

In My Garden by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Philip Stead (9780823443208)

Explore the seasons in a personal and close up way with master storyteller Zolotow. Originally published in 1960, the story has been updated with new illustrations from award-winner Stead. Each season starts with one thing that the narrator loves best about their garden during that time. But then they also include a bunch of other lovely things about their garden that season. In spring, the favorite is birds building nests. In summer it is roses. In fall it is chrysanthemums. In winter it is snow. But there is so much else to love too, mostly centered around a lovely pear tree in the garden too.

Zolotow’s writing is lovely, exploring the seasons in a round-about way through gardening and time spent outside. The book meanders with a sense of curiosity about what might also be lovely about the garden in each season. The exploratory nature of the text invites conversations with children about their own loves in each season.

Stead’s illustrations are dreamy and lovely. The colors are bright but also flow together creating a world to experience, remember and adore. His process creates an organic feel with fine lines that offer details but are also filled with blurs of color and cloud shapes.

A lovely new edition of a beauty of a book. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Neal Porter Books.

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Barretta

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Barretta

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Barretta, illustrated by Frank Morrison (9780062430151)

George Washington Carver grew up to be a famous botanist and inventor. In 1921, he spoke before Congress, talking about how the humble peanut could be used to make so many different products. This famous man’s connection with plants and the earth came from an early age in the form of his own secret garden. Born into slavery in 1864, he was kidnapped as an infant along with his mother. His mother was never found, but George was brought back to slavery. George and his brother grew up on the farm, even after slavery was abolished. Every day, George headed to the woods and the garden he was growing there. He learned all about plants without being mocked or teased, soon helping people in the area with their sick plants. He grew up, got an education, and became an Agriculture professor at Tuskegee Institute He also traveled the United States working directly with farmers to answer their questions and improve their farms. 

Barretta’s picture book biography of this famous African-American scientist and genius is fascinating and filled with moments of wonder. The frightening kidnapping in his infancy, his start as a slave and then working on a farm for his previous owners, and his incandescent mind finding a way forward to learn and grow all add up to a remarkable life. The text is engagingly written for a compelling read. 

Morrison’s art is phenomenal. The browns of the days of manual labor on the farm contrast with the bright greens, growing shoots, and tall trees of George’s secret garden. The two parts of his life could not appear more different. 

A fascinating look at a remarkable man. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden by Andrew Larsen

Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden by Andrew Larsen

Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Anne Villeneuve (9781771389174)

Vincent is staying with his aunt Mimi for the summer. She lives in an urban neighborhood with lots of concrete. Vincent is set for a dull summer where one of the most interesting things is the box of dirt balls that Mimi has from a previous boyfriend. But then Vincent meets Toma, a boy from the neighborhood. The two of them spend time together playing and take the dirt balls and toss them into the empty lot across the road. Soon not only is their friendship blossoming but the empty lot is being transformed by the dirt balls they tossed, dirt balls full of seeds. As the community joins together to care for the new garden, Vincent has to head home, but he will return next year to a neighborhood transformed by nature.

Larsen manages to show an urban neighborhood that is disconnected but still active before the garden appears. There are ice cream trucks, nosy neighbors, and balconies that connect people. Yet it is still a concrete space that needs something. It needs a garden! Told in a gentle tone and at a pace that allows space for the book to grow, this picture book is about transformation and community.

Villeneuve’s illustrations are done in quiet grays, pinks and blues that are almost hazy on the page. They transform along with the garden into vibrant colors of green that anchor the community visually and firmly.

A lovely picture book about the power of nature to create community. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Little Green Girl by Lisa Anchin

The Little Green Girl by Lisa Anchin

The Little Green Girl by Lisa Anchin (9780735230736)

Mr. Aster likes his normal routine. He cares for his garden, keeping it neat and clean. Then a new seed blows in on the wind. He plants the seed in his greenhouse and takes good care of the plant that emerges. Eventually, he moves the plant out into the garden. The plant looks like a little girl, and at first she is content to be at the center of the garden, always watching Mr. Aster as he works. But then the birds arrive and tell her stories of the wide world. Little Green Girl tries to move herself using vines and lifting her roots, but each day Mr. Aster tucks her back into her bed in the garden and repairs any damage she has done. Finally, Little Green Girl has an idea and makes sure that Mr. Aster allows her to travel. It may just be what Mr. Aster needs too.

Anchin has written a lovely, magical book that takes the idea of a plant and gives her plenty of personality. The book looks at both the pleasures of home and also the delights of experiencing something new. It also speaks to the power of a new friend and spreading your branches to include new experiences.

The artwork is completely charming. In particular, Little Green Girl, is a masterpiece of greenery. She is firmly rooted to the ground but manages to have plenty of emotional expression through body language despite that. Her readiness to travel could not be more clear when she manages to re-pot herself into a traveling form, sunglasses and all.

A book that will expand your horizons and get you thinking of taking a trip. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

3 New Picture Books to Build On

Florette by Anna Walker.jpg

Florette by Anna Walker (9780544876835)

When Mae’s family moves to the city, they can’t bring their garden with them. All Mae has around her now are moving boxes and a brick courtyard. She fills the courtyard with chalk drawings of butterflies, grass, and more but it’s all washed away when it rains. She draws daisies, grass and apple trees on the boxes too, but they tip over and are moved away. Mae spots an open space out of her window and leads her mother there, but it’s all pebbles rather than green. On their way back, Mae discovers a florist shop with a window filled with green plants and even one poking out the door. She takes that little end of the plant and from it starts the garden that her family said she would have, just a different one than she expected.

This picture book looks at moving and change through the lens of green space and creating your own solutions for a problem. Mae is an inventive little girl, independent as she leads her mother through a new neighborhood and creative as she finds a solution where others might not see one. The watercolor illustrations show a tall gray city but also one with a river, trees and children waiting to play. Mae sees it as cold and unfriendly, but readers will see new possibilities too. A look at resilience and finding your own way, this picture book is a treat. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday by Laura Gehl

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Sarah Horne (9781512431308)

A little girl receives a chicken for her birthday instead of the amusement park tickets that she asked her Abuela Lola for multiple times. A chicken is better than some other gifts, like socks, but you have to feed a chicken. The girl looks forward to eating eggs from the chicken, but the chicken is far too busy to lay eggs. The chicken makes friends with the girl’s dog, cat and hamster and soon all of them are too busy as well working for the chicken. Other animals arrive and work too. The chicken invites Abuela Lola to visit and then reveals what she has been working on all this time. It’s a reveal that is much better than socks!

Told in first person by the girl, this picture book has a wonderful tone. Gehl has other characters speak using signs they hold in their wings, paws or hands to communicate. These little asides add a lot of context and add a lot of humor to the book. The illustrations are bright and delightfully zany, filled with patterns, colors and textures. A fresh look at chickens and birthdays, this picture book is a win. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Carolrhoda Books and Raab Associates.)

Old MacDonald Had a Boat by Steve Goetz

Old MacDonald Had a Boat by Steve Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban (9781452165059)

This second book about Old MacDonald’s extended adventures continues the fun. Once again Old MacDonald and Mrs. MacDonald are hard at work on their farm. They have their truck  and look they have a new boat. But there’s a lot of work to do before it gets in the water. There are saws to buzz, hammers to bang, torches to blow, paint to roll and much more.

Verse after verse follows the format of the original song and children will love to participate in singing along. Nicely, Mrs. MacDonald uses the power tools with ease and all of the animals help too. The illustrations have a timeless appeal that suits the subject. There is plenty of fun and humor along the way as hammers miss and ski jumps are moved into position. A rousing new version of the beloved song that is perfect for summer days on the water. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.)

 

 

What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward

what-will-grow-by-jennifer-ward

What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani (9781681190303)

The author and illustrator pair who brought us What Will Hatch? return with another winning picture book. Here children get to guess what plant will emerge from the seeds being planted. Told in rhyme, the book invites guessing and participation. Some pages offer the answer immediately while others ask readers to fold out a page to see the answer. The book shows that seeds can turn into all kinds of different plants from carrots to sunflowers to pine trees. It also demonstrates the various shapes and colors that seeds come in.

The text has an welcoming tone that immediately asks children to participate in guessing. The rollicking rhyme and rhythm of the book adds to the pace and the fun. The text is basic enough for young toddlers to enjoy while the guessing will make the book fun for preschoolers. The book ends with information on each of the seeds, including when to plant them, how to plant them and when it will grow.

The illustrations have a wonderful natural feel to them. Seeds pepper the pages that are also filled with the greens of plant life. Animals appear as well: a fox snatches a tomato from the vine, a squirrel holds an acorn, a monarch sits atop milkweed. There’s a sense of a complete ecosystem on each page with each plant shown in its habitat. The gatefold pages add a lot of appeal, folding down to show long carrots underground and folding up for tall sunflowers and trees.

A wonderful warm new picture book to celebrate the arrival of spring and gardening. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.

 

Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson

plant-the-tiny-seed-by-christie-matheson

Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson

The author of Tap the Magic Tree and Touch the Brightest Star returns with another interactive picture book that is a companion to the first two. The child first plants the seeds by pressing them into the ground. They wiggle their fingers to water them. Then comes sunshine and rain. A hungry snail has to be hurried on its way. And all the while the plants are growing and growing. Then come the flowers, bright zinnias of purple, orange and red. The flowers fade and soon there are new seeds to be scattered.

This book shows the cycle from seed to plant to flower to seed in a simple and very approachable way. While it won’t work well for large groups, smaller groups of children or single children will love the interactive component and the feeling that they are gardening along with the book. The book incorporates plenty of other nature as well with snails, bees, birds and butterflies on the page. There is also lots for parents and children to talk about, making the book even more interactive.

Matheson’s illustrations are bright and simple. She keeps the plants in the same spot on each page, so the weather and creatures provide movement and changes. Deep brown soil richly frames the bottom of the pages and most of them have a clear white as a background that lets the simple illustrations pop.

A great way to explore the life cycle of plants, this picture book is simple and friendly enough for toddlers to enjoy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

 

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke (InfoSoup)

Released September 6, 2016.

Jack wants to spend his summer sleeping in or even with a job of his own. Instead, he is stuck watching his mute younger sister for the summer while his mother takes a second job to pay bills. Then one day at a flea market, Maddy does speak and tells Jack to trade his mother’s car for a box of unusual seeds. Jack does and soon his summer has turned into something very different. They create a garden at home and the seeds turn out to be very wild and even magical. There are onions that can walk, squash that bite, others that chase them down. Huge snails climb the house and one night a green dragon appears. Soon Jack has a choice to make, destroy the garden and its evil magic or risk them all.

According to the author note, this book was in the works for ten years. It’s a brilliant riff on the Jack in the Beanstalk classic. Fans of Zita the Spacegirl will recognize the character who sells Jack the seeds, which is a lovely little moment. Hatke keeps the pace wildly active with readers not knowing at all what is going to appear in the garden next. There is plenty of action and a willingness to just spend time exploring the magic garden and what it holds. Those pages are a delight.

The characters are nicely done as well with Maddy being the one who doesn’t speak but is also integral to all of the decisions being made. Then there is Lilly, the neighbor girl who knows how to wield a sword and even has access to other weapons and armor that will become crucial in the story. I greatly appreciate having a homeschooled girl character who is the one who knows how to battle and knows how to get along with others. It is these critical choices by the author that makes the book work so well. Maddy too is an autistic child who may not speak but has deep connections to the garden and knows exactly what she wants and often knows better than her brother.

Get this in the hands of Zita fans for sure and also those enjoying the battles in Hilo. There is so much to love here! Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from digital galley received from First Second and Edelweiss.