Tag Archives: garden

Celebrating a Storybook Year – May

After April Showers come…May flowers! For May we read more books about rain and the water cycle, but added in books on seeds, plants and flowers. We found several wonderful books for Mothers’ Day – some touching, some amusing, all great for read-aloud! We also read a powerful and poignant book for Memorial Day.

may2As you might imagine, given the subject matter, we found some beautifully illustrated selections this month. It’s fun to look at the collage and think about all the amazing books we have uncovered – or rediscovered – this year.

But I digress…we have seven more months to go!


Day 154 – From Seed to Plant

For June 2, we read another book from that prolific purveyor of “infotainment”: Gail Gibbons. “From Seed to Plant” was actually left over from our May theme of seeds and planting – but better late than never! Today’s selection, in true Gail Gibbons fashion, is full of colorful and informative illustrations that help to explain a real-life subject in an engaging way that pulls little listeners right in.

seed to plantIn “From Seed to Plant”, Ms. Gibbons introduces readers to a wide variety of seeds and to some of the flowers that grow from those seeds. There are informative drawings of plant anatomy and examples of the different and innovative ways in which seeds have adapted in order to travel from their source – such as being carried by squirrels, attaching themselves to someone’s pant leg, or floating on the wind. Aspiring gardeners will be inspired by Ms. Gibbon’s explanation of how seeds sprout into new plants, and her “From Seed to Plant” project for growing your own bean plant.

Once again, we turned to Ms. Gibbons for an entertaining and educational “real-world” picture book, and once again she came through with flying colors! Thank you, Ms. Gibbons.

Day 144 – Secrets of the Vegetable Garden

If you were following us back in March, you may already know how much we enjoyed our lift-the-flap experience with “Whose Egg” by Lynette Evans. Today’s book, “Secrets of the Vegetable Garden” by Carron Brown is similar in the sense that it provides little readers and listeners with information about the natural world in a colorful and engaging format – with a touch of mystery!

secretsThe twist, in this case, is that they mysteries are not revealed by lifting the flap, but by holding pages up to the light. Birds who were eating seeds in the garden suddenly flee – why are they flying away? If you hold the page up to the light, you can see…its a scarecrow! What kind of creatures are in the soil under the tomato plant? Hold the page up to the light, and you see…worms! After each mystery is revealed, you can turn the page to read a brief explanation before moving on to the next (the worms are breaking down leaves and bits of dead plants in the soil to make food for growing plants, the spotted thrush hiding behind the leaves is there pecking harmful insects like aphids off the plants…)

This book was a lot of fun, with a particularly attractive look and feel (it’s the kind of book that I see on the shelf and want to pick up). The illustrations by Giordano Poloni fill every other page of the book with bold color, and in between he provides the large black-and-white illustrations needed to create the “shine a light” effect, which I thought made this book particularly engaging. It looks like Ms. Brown has several other “shine a light” books out there – perhaps we will work another one into one of our monthly themes later this year.

p.s. you reveal the mysteries by holding pages up to a light – I suggest having a flashlight on hand.


Day 131 – Jo MacDonald Had a Garden

With Mothers’ Day in the rear-view mirror today, we got back to our themes of flowers, gardens, and growing with “Jo MacDonald Had a Garden” by Mary Quattlebaum and illustrated by Laura Bryant. Like the other books in Ms. Quattlebaum’s Jo MacDonald series, “Jo MacDonald Had a Garden” plays on a familiar tune that helps grab the reader’s attention for a story that focuses on children getting outside and experiencing nature first hand. It’s a theme we especially love, all bundled up with some playful watercolor illustrations in a fun and engaging read-aloud package.macdonald

In the book, Jo and her cousin Mike set out to create a garden – with a bit of a twist: they plan not only to only grow plants that feed people (tomatoes, squash, etc.), but to create an environment that will attract and help sustain wild animals as well. To this end, Jo plants sunflowers for cardinals, coneflowers for bees, and even lays out a flat rock for butterflies to rest. The back of the book provides additional information about some of the plants and animals in Jo’s garden community, and there are some suggested indoor and outdoor activities – including some questions about specific details you may have missed in Ms. Bryant’s artwork the first time through the book!

Upon further research, I discovered that Ms. Quattlebaum actually grew up on a farm, and that her own father served as inspiration for Jo’s grandfather in the book (Old MacDonald). After listening to her talk about her work, I appreciated this book that much more. It was a truly delightful read…and so I’ll sign off with a book, book here…and a book, book there…here a book…there a book…everywhere a picture book…e-i-e-i-o…


Day 130 – Planting the Wild Garden

In keeping with our May theme of flowers and pollinators this evening, we read “Planting the Wild Garden” by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin. It’s really quite a good story about all the ways in which wild seeds are spread about the “wild meadow garden” of the world around us, including several of, what were for me, revelations about some of the ways in which seeds might be spread. It was one more beautifully illustrated example of natural world “info-tainment” for our Storybook Year.

wildThe book begins with a farmer and her son planting seeds in the garden, but reminds us that “many seeds (in the wild meadow) are planted too, but not by farmers’ hands.” There is, of course, the wind blowing seeds far from home (“oooooo-whishhh”), and goldfinches (“per–chik-o-ree!”) who knock seeds from plants when they land…or eat them and poop them out later. The Scotch broom pops seeds into the air from pods, rain knocks seeds loose, streams carry them, squirrels bury acorns – some of which are lost and grow into great oaks, and several different kinds of animals may carry them in their fur as they amble or skitter through the meadow. And then, of course, there are people who (“stomp stomp”) pick up seeds on their boots and sweaters or simply blow them free while making wishes on dandelions. Everyone – animal and human alike – work together to keep the wild meadow garden flourishing.

Ms. Galbraith’s language in the book is simple and accessible, and the repeated use of onomatopoeia adds entertainment value to the read-aloud experience. We also really enjoyed the illustrations which are laid out almost like a collage or gallery on several pages – showing various stages of the process described in the writing. My favorite picture was the rabbit gnawing on some tall grass…as a fox watches in the background. This was a lot of fun to read and share, and the book fit perfectly with our May themes.


Day 107 – How Does My Garden Grow?

Today, in keeping with one of our monthly themes, we read another spectacular Gerda Muller book: “How Does My Garden Grow?” The book is crammed full of information about gardening, with language that is easily accessible to younger listeners. Ms. Muller (as she always does) decorates the pages with her wonderfully colorful, expressive, and comforting images. In this particular book we enjoyed the illustrations of a family working together to plant, tend, and harvest crops on the farm.garden

Sophie is a city girl, but this summer she is going to stay with her grandparents on their farm in the French countryside, where she is looking forward to doing all kinds of fun things in the garden! Over the summer Sophie learns about planting seeds, mulching, composting, and caring for the vegetables in the garden.  She learns about the impact – both positive and negative – that birds, insects, worms, burrowing mammals, and even bats (!) can have for plants on the farm. Perhaps most importantly, she gains an appreciation for the mouth-watering flavors and amazing varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables that can be grown on the farm. Even when the summer ends and she must go back to school, Sophie keeps coming back through fall and winter to visit and help around the farm. At the end of the year, Sophie is sad to be packing up all the gardening equipment for the winter, but her grandfather has a surprise present for her to help her feel better when spring rolls around: a package full of herb and vegetable seeds to start a garden in the big city!

I have had my eye on this book ever since it was placed in our April basket because of the beautiful cover image of Sophie watering plants plants in the garden – surrounded by artichokes, carrots, beets, and a towering tomato plant. Ms. Muller does an excellent job, as we have seen her do in other books, of telling a compelling story that also happens to be a great learning experience. I love the emphasis on family, on spending time outdoors, and on enjoying fresh home-grown produce. The large format of the book really does Ms. Muller’s illustrations justice – it is a stunning overall production and a joy to flip through again and again.

Day 78 – Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

For years, Mr. McGreely has had a dream “…of getting his hands dirty, growing yummy vegetables, and…gobbling them all up.” One fine spring day, “by golly,” he decides it is finally time for his dream to become reality. He hoes, and he sows, and he watches his garden grow – but he is not alone! In the corner of his yard, somebunny else has their eyes on Mr. McGreely’s veggies – three somebunnies to be exact!

munchaThat evening…”tippy, tippy, tippy, pat”…the “puff-tailed” interlopers steal into the garden by moonlight and “muncha, muncha, muncha” Mr. McGreely’s carefully cultivated sprouts. What ensues is a rapidly escalating and humorously excessive contest of man against nature – with Mr. McGreely erecting increasingly imposing barriers against these three resourceful and ravenous “lop-eared” larcenists. After building what looks like a maximum-security prison around his garden – complete with moat – it appears he has succeeded in turning away the “twitch-whiskered” trouble-makers…or has he?

Candace Fleming’s “Muncha, Muncha, Muncha” put a big fat smile on my face. The mischievous bunnies, the use of onomatopoeia, and Mr. Greely’s emotional outbursts nam nammade for an engaging read aloud experience (for narrator and listener alike). The repetitive moonlight “refrain” of the bunnies sneaking into the garden – “tippy, tippy, tippy, pat…muncha, muncha, muncha” – is great for beginning readers as well. Perhaps best of all, Ms. Fleming’s book inspired us all to start munching on carrots as our oldest read us the Spanish version of the story.

Candace Fleming is scheduled to be featured in the next online author event at Read Aloud Revival (April 17, 2016). We plan on working in several more of Ms. Fleming’s books between now and then. We can’t wait!