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.
Nobody Hugs a Cactus by Carter Goodrich (9781534400900)
Hank is a very prickly cactus sitting in a window and overlooking the emptiness of the desert. Occasionally others intrude on his blissful quiet, and he doesn’t respond in a very friendly way. When Rosie the tumbleweed rolls past, Hank ignores her entirely. Hank yells at a tortoise so loudly that the tortoise hides in his shell. Other animals and people pass too, each greeted rudely by Hank. Someone suggests that he needs a hug, but no one wants to hug a prickly cactus. The next morning though, Hank is less angry and more lonely. But what is a grumpy cactus to do? Hank may have a new and friendly idea.
Goodrich has created quite the character in Hank. Hank moves beyond just being rather ferocious and cranky into something more closely approaching sadness and isolation. That shift is the key to this book, one that allows readers to truly start to feel for Hank and his predicament. The use of being “prickly” meaning both personality and having sharp needles is clever handled and not overplayed in the text. The book is engaging and funny with a brisk pace despite being centered on a plant.
The art is done in a desert color palette with sand, rich blue skies at night, and changing clouds and weather. Hank himself is full of personality, grumpy as can be at times while being rather morose at others. Goodrich uses plenty of humor in the illustrations too, particularly with Hank himself.
A great pick for grumpy days when you might be feeling a bit prickly yourself. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
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
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.
Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis (InfoSoup)
This inventive picture book takes a close-up look at a garden filled with insects. There is the caterpillar who enters his chrysalis, beetles and a ladybug who notice a sprout growing. They go to Icky, who lives in a log nearby and who has a ladder they can use. The sprout continues to grow and grow. At night other insects and bugs come out. Soon a fort is built in the growing plant but then, disaster! A spider comes and webs the entire plant. As nature continues to take its course, more insects arrive to see the plant flower. Slowly the plant tips over and the fort falls. Seeds drift to the ground. Fall arrives and the butterfly emerges from her cocoon. In spring, new sprouts appear.
The summary above does not capture what is truly amazing about this book. It is the language play, the word choices and the way that at first it seems like a foreign language but by the end of the book you are “speaking” and understanding bug. The language has phrases that are recognizable, allows for decoding of the language and then repeats in a way that allows readers to better understand. It’s very cleverly done and a book unlike any other I’ve experienced.
Ellis’ illustrations add to the otherworldly appeal of this book. Many of the insects are recognizable and still they are strange and wild. The illustrations beautifully focus on the same log and plant throughout, with seasons changing, the plant growing, and the insects coming and going. It is rather like an organic theatrical set and stage.
I have a deep affection for this zany picture book. Children who enjoy word play will love this and may find themselves speaking the bug language for awhile. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.
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.
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.
Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Carolyn Fisher
Weeds are the most tenacious of plants, growing where nothing else can survive. This informational picture book looks at how these weeds are able to live in such harsh conditions. It also explores the various ways that weeds reproduce from fluffy seeds carried on the wind to being pokey and sticky and carried along on clothes and fur. Weeds can survive scorching heat and icy cold. They fight back by having stems that break before their roots are pulled out, sour sap or thorns. But in the end, this book is about survival and the beauty and wonder of weeds. It’s a celebration of these unwanted plants.
The author has written this book in prose, but uses poetic devices like analogies and similes to show how weeds thrive. Her language choices are very nice such as her depiction of milkweed: “…shot out of tight, dry pods like confetti from a popped balloon.” Throughout the book there are descriptions like this and they bring the entire book a certain shine.
Fisher’s art is standout in this book. Her illustrations are a dynamic mix of painting styles. There are layers throughout her work, some smooth and detailed, others large and textured for the backgrounds, and almost lacy weedy touches. They are strikingly lovely especially if you look at them closely, rather like the weeds they depict.
A choice addition to gardening story times, this will make a good summer or spring pick to share. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
The Giant Seed by Arthur Geisert
This follow-up to the charming Ice continues the story of the community of pigs. One night, an enormous seed landed near the homes of the pigs. The pigs immediately set to work planting it, watering it, and caring for it. It grew into an enormous dandelion. Just as the flowers were blooming, a volcano near their village started to erupt. Hot ash fell onto their homes and the pigs were forced to flee. They found the solution in the dandelion seeds, riding them to a new island filled with trees and fresh water.
Geisert’s pig stories are told entirely through pictures. The long, narrow format of the book allows for a series of panels, one picture on each page, or a lovely long image that takes up the entire spread. Geisert uses all of these formats for his images. His illustrations are done in etchings with fine lines and small details. The mystery of the real size of the pigs continues with one wondering if they are either very tiny pigs or the dandelions are truly larger than trees.
As readers face another disaster alongside the pigs, they will enjoy the whimsical solution and the impressive art. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.