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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.

Gardening and Farming for Growing Minds

Regular contributor Debbie Glade writes about a topic near and dear to my heart. When I spot the first signs of green pushing out of the soil from bulbs I planted way back when, I always get an excited feeling that spring is not far off. And to see the fruits of my labor (and back pain) makes it all worthwhile, year after year. Read what Debbie has to say about some books she has recently read for L.A. Parent.

As an avid organic home gardener myself, I get excited when I hear that a child is interested in learning just exactly how our food and plants grow. And what better way is there to encourage a child to start gardening than an informative book with awesome illustrations or photographs? Here are three books to get you started.

Water, Weed and Wait

amazon_titleThe beautiful front and back covers alone of Water, Weed and Wait are enough to make you want to open this book. Written by Edith Hope Fine and Angela Demos Halpin and illustrated by Colleen Madden, the story is about the teacher and students of an elementary classroom who get together to clear a weed filled area outside the school and plant a veggie and flower garden. The book does a good job of showing just how much work and patience it takes to plan and care for a garden. But it’s the colorful, happy illustrations that really make this book extra special.

Up We Grow: A Year in the Life of a Small, Local Farmer 2112_cv2

Written by Deborah Hodge and photographed by Brian Harris, Up We Grow: A Year in the Life of a Small, Local Farmer is a rather sophisticated, nonfiction book about real, sustainable farms and the hard work the farmers must do during all four seasons. There is essential information in the book about many aspects of farming such as caring for the soil, planting, watering, composting, animal farming and even how farmers support one another. I like that photos of real farmers in action were used and each of the farms that were visited to write the book are listed on the last page. Teaching our children about what it takes to grow our food and care for our earth is the best way to protect our environment. Reading this book with your children is a perfect way to introduce them to the world of sustainable farming. Parents, you’ll learn something too.

The Life of Rice: From Seedling to Supper

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Award winning photographer and author Richard Sobol traveled to Thailand to attend the Annual Royal Plowing Ceremony, the Thai celebration of rice. Why celebrate rice, you may ask? Well, in this book you learn that rice is the staple food in Thailand (and many other countries), feeding so many people, that they want to commemorate the start of the crop season. While reading this book, I said out loud, “Oh. So that’s how the rice is grown. That’s when they pick it. Oh, so rice is really a grass. So that’s how the grain is separated from the plant! Wow, growing rice takes a lot of work!” Finally I know the answers to rice questions I’ve had for years. So if your children have ever asked you about where the tiny grains of rice they were eating came from, this book will beautifully answer that question and more. In the back are four valuable pages of facts about rice. I love the photos in the book and the way the author wrote the story through the perspective of his own real-life learning experience. Readers will truly appreciate what it took to grow their food after reading The Life of Rice. debbieglade

Debbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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