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Planting a Seed

HoldaSeedWarm weather days are upon us, school’s just about out for summer, and it’s that time of year when many kids can get excited about gardening. If You Hold a Seed ($16.95, Running Press Kids, Ages 3 and up) is a picture book with few words, yet it conveys a big message. The story is all about planting a tree seed and waiting for it to grow through every kind of weather during the year.

The beauty of this book is in its simplicity as well as its unique illustrations. When I first looked at the book, I wondered how writer and artist Elly MacKay managed to capture light so realistically. I learned on her website that she creates her pictures by employing a most innovative process. She uses plastic paper so she can stretch it, layer it and use it to catch light. She then places her illustrations in a handmade box of sorts, held with wires, so she can shine light through the images at different angles to get the look she wants. With the use of tissue paper and layers of color, the illustrations have remarkable depth.

Reading this charming book with your children will get them excited about summer and will make them want to plant their own seeds and climb a tree. They may even be inspired to paint some unusual pictures of their own.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

Grow Your Veggies. Eat Your Veggies

Watch Out, Jolly Green Giant!

Today my girlfriend Loren posted her winter harvest color wheel on Facebook. She grew organic beets, broccoli, turnips and red cauliflower. Earlier in the week, down in Florida, reviewer Debbie Glade showed off her heirloom tomatoes and gave readers on her blog her secret tomato sauce recipe with directions and photos! Okay so how do I make my vegetable soup you ask? By taking a trip to the supermarket and buying it there! I so envy the freshness and tastiness of my friends’ latest hauls, but do not have a green thumb. Never did. That’s why I had a vicarious experience reading It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden by award-winning author and photographer (of more than one hundred books), George Ancona ($16.99, Candlewick Press, ages 5 and up).

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Do you fancy yourself a gardener? Well author Ancona was curious when he learned that the Acequia Madre Elementary School in Santa Fe, New Mexico had a garden so he paid it a visit. Turns out a lot of the staff, students, parents and other volunteers were digging in and helping out to make that garden grow. In this new book Ancona documents how he spent the better part of year getting to know a lot of green thumbs and watching plant life in its seasonal cycles.

By reading the 48 pages filled with fabulous photos, kids will get a great taste of what went into the planting and caring for this successful school garden. Having a school garden means many garden projects can be planned so children can learn first hand about where our flowers, fruits and vegetables come from (and I don’t mean the supermarket!). From choosing what seeds to plant, making compost, planting seeds, transplanting seedlings and all the other steps gardeners must take to assure a viable crop, It’s Our Garden provides a terrific glimpse into the process the whole family will enjoy … and perhaps try to copy.

While I am certain Debbie Glade’s favorite part of the book was reading about all the creatures that live in the garden (and the accompanying photos), mine by far was seeing the students enjoy eating the fruits of their labor!  In addition to kids benefiting from It’s Our Garden, the book would make an ideal teacher gift and should be on the shelves in every elementary school classroom.

Spring is Here, There and Everywhere

If you could see my shelves at home, you’d know how much I love books about gardening. And one of my greatest pleasures is sharing my gardening knowledge with children. And Then it’s Spring ($16.99, Roaring Brook Press, ages 4 and up) is a perfect book for curious little gardeners. There are but a few wonderful words on every page, written by Julie Fogliano, and a whole lot of story telling going on with the illustrations, by Erin E. Stead. The story is about a boy and his dog who are eager to be done with winter so they can see less brown in the garden and more green. Yet day after day, week after week, brown is all they see. Until one day spring has arrived. I love the way this story charmingly epitomizes the anticipation every child experiences while waiting for something truly important to him or her. It also inspires kids to want to get out in their yards and plant seeds. And that is a very good thing.

What better time than spring to read a book about farmyard animals? Even better yet, this book should be read on a night when your little one is having trouble settling down to go to sleep. Farmyard Beat ($15.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, ages 1 and up) by Lindsey Craig is a catchy rhyming story about different farm animals that cannot sleep because they’ve got a beat going on in their heads. What you’ll truly love about this book is the fact that the animals eventually do wear themselves out, hopefully inspiring your child to do the same! You’ll also admire the illustrations by the inimitable Marc Brown (of the Arthur books and cartoon fame). The vivid pictures are actually collages made from hand-painted papers, and they’re just so darn cute.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade. To see Debbie’s organic tomato garden video, click here.

A Counting Book To Grow On

I have always loved the bold graphics of Ammo books and that includes this board book designed with your toddler in mind.  Counting in the Garden ($14.95, Ammo Books, ages 18 mos. and up) written by Emily Hruby who teamed up with her brother Patrick Hruby for the illustrations, succeeds on all counts.

Little ones will be captivated by the colorful images of all the wonderful things growing in a young boy’s garden: from 1 onion, with many, many peels to 5 fresh watermelons, shiny and green to 10 tender tomatoes, juicy and delicious! And surprise there are even snails, butterflies, sunflowers and tulips, too, adding a vitality to the world outside just waiting to be explored … and in the end, eaten.  Parents will love reading this book to youngsters or letting them study each page to discover nature’s treasures on their own.

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