Review: That’s Not a Daffodil by Elizabeth Honey

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.

Review: Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine by Allison Wortche

rose sprouts time to shine

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine by Allison Wortche, illustrated by Patrice Barton

Everyone thought that Violet was the best at everything.  She could run the fastest, sing the highest, and dress the fanciest.  But Rosie did not think that Violet was the best and was tired of hearing about Violet all the time.  When their teacher gave them an assignment to plant pea plants and care for them, Violet was sure that hers would be the best.  She decorated her pot with lots of sparkles.  Rosie’s plant was the first the pop up above the dirt, but Violet announced hers first.  So when Rosie came in early the next morning, she pushed soil over the top of Violet’s plant.  That day, they learned that Violet had chicken pox and would not be in for several days.  So Rosie started to care for both of their plants.  Rosie’s teacher told her that she was the best gardener she ever had in her class, as Rosie watered, rotated and sang to both plants. 

This book celebrates the quiet child, the one who is not the sparkliest or the loudest.  The book speaks to the need for all children to be praised and to be seen as being good at something.  Rosie definitely feels left out and jealous of Violet, and those feelings turn into action when she buries Violet’s plant.  But at the same time, that is the moment that the book turns around and Rosie starts to shine.  Happily, the jealous act is temporary and not the focus of the book.  Instead it is a much merrier book because of that.

The art work here has a wonderful softness to it that is very welcoming.  There is a freedom to the art as well that is very successful.  The lines are soft, the colors blend, and the effect is fresh.  The children in the classroom are multicultural, another small touch that makes the story all the more universal. 

A great book to share in the spring, when gardens start being planted, or when jealousies grow.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

Review: Secrets of the Garden by Kathleen Zoehfeld

secrets of the garden

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

Alice loves it when spring arrives and they can start planting the garden.  Her dad gets the soil ready for planting and then she and her brother start putting the seeds in.  It seems like a long time before the seeds finally sprout.  Then other seedlings are transplanted from pots and potatoes are sown.  Lettuce and radishes are ready to eat first, and Alice spots a rabbit munching on them too.  She also thinks a mouse might be eating the fallen corn.  Hawks hunt in the garden and there are plenty of insects too.  Autumn nears and harvest begins, and the food cycle of the garden is complete for another year.  Throughout the book, the chickens offer commentary about the cycle itself with information about herbivores and carnivores, compost, worms and much more. 

This is an outstanding example an information book for children.  The chickens give the book a lighter tone, even though they are the ones offering the hard science.  The story celebrates gardening, the food cycle, and having a place connects one with nature.  Zoehfeld’s writing is breezy and cheerful, setting just the right tone of exploration, wonder and science.

Lamont’s illustrations add to the delight.  They have a similar feel to Michael Rosen’s with the friendly characters.  The colors tend towards the subtler side, inviting close inspection and learning.

This is a choice book for units on the food cycle or for children looking for information that they will enjoy learning.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf.

Book Review: The Little Plant Doctor by Jean Marzollo


The Little Plant Doctor: A Story about George Washington Carver by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max

An old tree in Diamond, Missouri recounts its favorite story, a tale about George Washington Carver as a little boy.  When the tree met George, they were the same height, and George planted wildflowers around the tree.  He watched the flowers closely, moving them from sun to shade if they drooped.  George was bright, but was not allowed to go to school because he was African-American.  So he stayed home, continuing to study plants on his own.  Eventually, George did get to go to school and then to college.  Now the tree stands in the George Washington Carver National Monument, helping to tell the story of a young George Washington Carver who became one of the most famous scientists in history.

Marzollo has chosen a unique perspective from which to tell the story of George Washington Carver.  It makes it less of a biography, but still firmly roots the story in reality.  At times, the wording in the text can feel clunky and the use of the tree as narrator cumbersome.  This is especially true in the last part of the book.

Wilson-Max’s illustrations bring the book to life with their bright, deep colors that speak to the beauty of the plants, the strength of the tree, and the dedication of George to his pursuit of science.  They have a pleasing rustic quality to them that speaks to the natural setting.

This friendly book about George Washington Carver will entertain young children and is also educational about the famous scientist.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from ARC received from Holiday House.

How Does a Seed Grow?

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.

The King and the Seed

The King and the Seed by Eric Maddern, illustrated by Paul Hess

King Karnak has no heir and is coming to the end of his reign.  So he puts out a call for anyone who wants to be king to come and join in a competition.  Knights come from across the land, ready for the battle to begin.  But the king surprises them all by handing each one of them a seed and asking them to bring it back in six months to show what they have grown.  A boy, Jack, who came only to witness the competition, gets a seed for himself.  Jack tries and tries to make his seed grow, but nothing works and six months later he heads back to the castle.  There he finds the knights with armloads of plants, huge flowers, all different from one another.  Jack doesn’t want to admit his defeat to the king, so what’s a boy to do?

Maddern’s storytelling has a great flair, filled with small touches and humor that really bring the story to life.  The book has a strong message that is not overdone.  It also has a classic folk tale format that is mixed with a modern storytelling style, creating a very engaging book.  Hess’ illustrations are bright-colored and offer interesting perspectives on the action.  They will work well with a group.

Ideal for reading aloud, this book is a great modern folktale that emphasizes the importance of honesty.  Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

A Seed Was Planted

A Seed Was Planted by Toulla Palazeti, illustrated by Pamela Barcita

From a single seed being planted, people share shoots of the plant.  With friends, neighbors and family members who each take it in turn, plant it and then pass on a shoot to another person.  The book uses the refrain of “It grows,” as each person plants their shoot.  In the end, the small plants grow and grown until they are trees large enough to climb.  The book speaks to the wonder of seeds, the power of sharing and the way that one small idea can lead to transformation.

Author Palazeti keeps the text very simple with only one sentence per page.  This makes it ideal for new readers of both English and Spanish.  This simplicity of language belies the depth of the story and its gentle and powerful message.  Barcita’s illustrations are realistic and very friendly.  Readers get to see each sharing of the tree along with a framed image of the newly potted shoot.  The different pot styles and settings speak firmly to our differences as well as our commonalities. 

Recommended for new readers in either English or Spanish, this book is universal in its message and appeal.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

This book comes in both English and bilingual English/Spanish.  I reviewed from an ARC of the bilingual version that I received from the publisher.