Three Books to Grow On

As this year’s Summer Reading Program theme is “Reading is So Delicious”, I thought I’d share three of my favorite children’s picture books on the topics of vegetable and flower gardening. 
For toddlers, Candace Fleming’s Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! is a lively and easy-to-follow read.  Mr. McGreely has long dreamt of growing delicious vegetables in his backyard.  Finally, one spring, he decides to go for it.  Unfortunately, three hungry rabbits also decide to go for Mr. McGreely’s carrots, peas and tomatoes.  Every night they visit his vegetable garden and eat everything in sight, prompting him to build an ever more elaborate fence/deterrent system.   But those rabbits are creative in their quest to get inside!  The refrain of “Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!” provides a good opportunity for children to join in with the reader, and the repetitive nature of the story helps children work on their predictive skills.  G. Brian Karas’s eye-catching gouache and acrylic with pencil illustrations draw in the viewer with their varied shades of green and brown.  The story is great fun and will provoke lots of smiles. 
A great choice for preschoolers is The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown.  Young Liam lives in a drab industrial city with no trees or plants whatsoever.   Most residents never venture outside.  But curious Liam decides to explore the unused railway tracks above the city.  Once up there he is surprised to see a small cluster of wild plants which could use a gardener’s help.  Despite knowing little about gardening, Liam feels that he can make a difference somehow.   He tries various methods and the plants are soon thriving and spreading throughout the city.  The can-do message of this book is very inspiring without being didactic at all.  Vivid acrylic and gouache illustrations really set the tone, from the muted browns, blacks and grays of the story’s beginning to the bright greens and blues which appear once the garden starts taking off.   Brown does not rush his story, thoroughly engrossing the reader, but also indicating the amount of time which a project such as Liam’s would require.  This would also be a great book for school-age children studying environmental topics.
Children in primary grades will enjoy Allison Wortche’s Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine.   Rosie is a bit bothered by the achievement – and accompanying boastfulness -- of her classmate Violet, who seems to outshine everyone in several areas.   During a class pea plant project,  Rosie’s and Violet’s plants are the first to sprout, but Violet yells out that her own is the first.  The next morning an annoyed Rosie pushes soil on top of Violet’s plant.  But when Violet is out sick for a few days, Rosie has a change of heart and takes care of Violet’s plant along with her own.  Rosie is full of pride when her teacher calls her the “best gardener” she’s ever had.  When Violet returns she surprisingly thanks Rosie, but then loudly boasts to the class that her decorated pot is still the “sparkliest”.  This time, however, Rosie reacts differently to Violet’s behavior, simply exchanging a knowing smile with her teacher.   This book is educational without overdoing it, including mention of the basic requirements for plant growth within the flow of the story.  The dynamics of classroom competition are true-to-life and Rosie’s feelings and personal growth are believable.   Artist Patrice Barton illustrated this story with pencil sketches painted digitally.  Yet there is nothing “computerized” about their feel – they are soft, bright and filled with the movement and energy of an elementary classroom.   Some preschoolers will also enjoy this book, especially when read to one-on-one.
Now go get some seeds, check out these books and start planting with your little ones!

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