It’s been very “action” and “comics” around Planet Jinxatron lately, so let’s mix things up with a quiet set of children’s books. Plants are quiet, right? Perfect. Here are our favorite children’s books about gardens and gardening, which all go well beyond how to make green things grow. Even if you don’t have a young reader in your life, but you’re interested in plants and gardens, check your local library and see if they have these. There’s not as much diversity in the characters as I’d like (the children’s book genre has that problem). So I’m continuing to dig (ha!) at the library and I’ll post an update later if I can find more.
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. This was the first garden book I fell in love with. A boy discovers a strange thing in his bleak, grey city: a tiny garden, creating itself out of nothing. He begins to tend it, and learn from it, and soon other people start tending it and learning from it, and the entire city is transformed. A story about the environment, and paying attention, and community. Without any preaching!
The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin. I’m sure almost every child can sympathize with the daughter in this story. Mom won’t let us have the same thing everyone else has! She just keeps saying that’s the way it is! And when the “thing” is what’s growing in the yard, everyone in the neighborhood can see it! But when the secret is revealed, everyone in the neighborhood gets on board with the amazing ugly vegetables. Love the diversity of the neighborhood, also love the fact that its message is delivered without hitting you in the head with a two by four.
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, with art by David Small. In the mid-1930s, Lydia Grace is sent from her rural home to live with her uncle in the city. Her uncle doesn’t smile. She’s going to fix that. It’s told in a series of letters that show Lydia Grace’s positive outlook, as well as her love for her family. Small’s artwork feels just as friendly as Lydia Grace herself.
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith. It’s a quiet, sweet book narrated by the great-grandson of a gardener. He shows the reader all the important things that happened in his great-grandfather’s life – you know they were the important things because there are topiaries in his great-grandfather’s garden representing them. Some are silly, some are sad. I love the respect shown to the great-grandfather, and that his passion is horticulture (somewhat non-traditional for a man), and the connection between the child and his Grandpa Green.
Dangerously Ever After by Dashka Slater, with art by Valeria Docampo. Okay, okay, I was trying to keep things quiet and relaxed, but this is VERY different than the books above! Perhaps it should be in another post entirely, but it really does center around a garden. Specifically, Princess Amanita’s garden of dangerous plants. She loves all things menacing, so when a neighboring prince brings her roses, the thorns captivate her. Unfortunately her handwriting is terrible (teachable moment for my son!!) so her note to his gardener asking for rose seeds doesn’t produce the expected results. In the process, Amanita learns something about herself, and about appreciating a few non-dangerous things. I told C-Man that this book has some of the most gorgeous art I have seen in a picture book yet, and I stand by that claim. I also kind of want some of Amanita’s clothes.
And that’s the list!