Tag: gardens

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.


Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Plants Can't Sit Still by Rebecca Hirsch

Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrated by Mia Posada (InfoSoup)

Plants can’t walk or run or even fly, but they don’t stay still either! This jaunty picture book captures the many ways that plants manage to move, even though they are rooted to the ground. They squirm out of the soil. They turn towards the sun. They creep underground and spring up in new places. They can climb walls and even eat bugs. Some fold shut at night while others open only in the moonlight. Then there are the seeds that use all sorts of tricks to move to new places to grow. That’s where they start to move all over again.

As a person with a native garden that overtakes the entire front of house this time of year, I am very aware of plants being able to move! I love the dynamic quality of this book as well as the surprise factor where children will wonder about how plants in their lives are moving since they don’t appear to be doing much at all. Hirsch selects plants that children will experience in their normal lives: milkweed, strawberries, tulips, morning glories, and maple trees. She uses simple language to explain how the plants move and grow, making this a science book that preschoolers will enjoy. Those looking for more detail can turn to a section in the back of the book.

Posada’s illustrations beautifully enhance this picture book and its fresh look at plants. The illustrations are done with cut paper collage and watercolor. They fill the pages with bursts of color, zings of green and plenty of earthiness too. The colors are perfectly chosen to evoke the real nature of the plants like the changing colors of the maple leaves and the burst of fuzz from a dandelion.

A great new book on plants and the surprising ways they move, this is a fascinating read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.


Review: If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

if you plant a seed

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

Award-winning Nelson tells a story about the power of sharing in this simple and striking picture book. The story begins with a rabbit and a mouse planting a tomato seed, a carrot seed and a cabbage seed in their garden. Then the two wait through all kinds of weather for the seeds to sprout and grow. Until finally, they have three lovely plants and are able to feast on their bounty. Then the birds arrive and silently ask for the rabbit and mouse to share. But no sharing happens and instead there is a struggle and the plants are destroyed. One small red tomato survives and the mouse offers it to the birds. The birds in turn repay that kindness with seeds of their own which then sprout into a much larger and more diverse garden for them all to enjoy, along with even more animals.

Nelson’s writing here is simple but also to the point. He shows young readers what is happening in the story. Using the symbolism of the garden throughout, he explains the importance of sowing the seeds of kindness rather than selfishness and finally how beautiful it is in the end when you do that. There is little subtlety here and the symbolism is beautifully integrated into the story as a whole.

As always, Nelson’s illustrations are pure delight. His animals shine on the page, showing emotions clearly and beautifully both in their eyes and the positions of ears and tails. Other details bring the entire scene to life. Perhaps my favorite page is the birds silently watching the rabbit and mouse feast on the produce. It’s funny and yet the tension is clear too. The entire book is filled with small lovely moments like this told in images rather than words.

Community, sharing and kindness come together in this splendidly illustrated picture book that is sure to be enjoyed along with other spring gardening books. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Three Little Peas by Marine Rivoal

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.

Review: Underground by Denise Fleming


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.

Review: Jo MacDonald Had a Garden by Mary Quattlebaum

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.