Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Every season has its splendors. Now’s the time to celebrate the radiance of summer!

Summer is …old-fashioned outdoor playtime!

And Then Comes Summer, written by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Flip-flops and lemonade stands; parades and fireworks; ice-cream cones and swimming; campfires and marshmallows to toast. It’s all here. The jubilant best of summer is on full display in this happy catalogue of summertime. Whet your appetites for summer fun. Ages 2 and up.

Summer is…time for high-dive bravery!

Jabari Jumps, written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Every kid either remembers or anticipates with tummy-flutters their first leap off that talllllll diving board. Jabari and his dad tackle those jitters with aplomb and splashy success in this glad story. I love this book! Share it with ages 2 and up.

Summer is…full of creeping things!

My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis, written and illustrated by Paul Meisel
published in 2017 by Holiday House

A praying mantis keeps a summer journal in this genius book. Beginning with his birth on a beautiful May day, P. Mantis tells us about his favorite foods, his tricky camouflage moves, his molting episodes, and his pretty dastardly habit of…well, you’ll have to read it to believe it. All in his matter-of-fact, engaging voice. Masterful creative nonfiction and nature lore for ages 2 and up.

Summer is…mud pies!

Mud Book: How to Make Pies and Cakes, written by John Cage, illustrated by Lois Long
published in 2017 by Princeton Architectural Press

This pint-sized book contains just two recipes — Mud Pie and Mud Layer Cake; with a variation on the layer cake to turn it into a birthday smash hit. The startling thing is — it was written by avant-garde composer John Cage!!! I was astonished to see this. And illustrated by textile designer Lois Long. In the 1950s. A limited edition print was done in the early 80s by these two. And now you, too, can enjoy this happy, eccentric little piece. Thank you Princeton Architectural Press. A delight for ages 2 and up.

Summer is…camp-outs!

The Camping Trip, written and illustrated by Sven Nordqvist, translated by Tara Chace
first published in Sweden in 1992; English edition 2017 by NorthSouth Books

The popular Swedish duo, ol’ Pettson and his cat Findus, are headed for a camp-out. But of course one thing after another goes awry for these two in this silly, affectionate adventure. The Pettson and Findus tales are classic Swedish fare so if you’ve got a Scandinavian bone in your body you really mustn’t miss them. Nordqvist is an excellent storyteller and there is so much additional mayhem in his illustrations for kids to spot. Ages 4 and up.

Summer is…red-white-and-blue Independence Day celebrations!

Long May She Wave: The True Story of Caroline Pickersgill and Her Star-Spangled Creation, written by Kristen Fulton, illustrated by Holly Berry
published in 2017; Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Meet Caroline Pickersgill, a gal who grew up surrounded by women stitching truly historic American flags. In 1812, at age 13, Caroline set to work on the most colossal flag ever. Turns out it was the very one that inspired our national anthem! Read her true story, deftly handled by Kristen Fulton. No draggy sawdust history here. Perky text, with clever inclusions of phrases from the anthem, and bold, dynamic illustrations to match. Lively and patriotic for ages 4 and up. 

Summer is…beach time!

There Might Be Lobsters, written by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Laurel Molk
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

One sweet but timid dog heads to the beach with her owner, Eleanor, but has the dickens of a time due to her boatload of fears. Especially…lobsters. (They do have such pinchy pinchers!) Eleanor does her level best to coax and cajole dear Sukie to join in the beach fun, but it takes a small emergency for Sukie to leap into action. A darling read for ages 3 and up. Dog-lovers, your hearts will melt!

Summer is…bursting with garden produce!

The Children’s Garden: Growing Food in the City, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Pierr Morgan
published in 2017 by little bigfoot, an imprint of sasquatch books

Bursting with all the colors of luscious summer fruits and veggies, this book has a lovely old-fashioned feel to it. It’s the breezy account of a garden tended by kids in one Seattle neighborhood. Turning the earth, planting the seeds, watering, harvesting, weeding and resting is all happier when it’s done with a group of friends.  Inviting and inspirational for ages 3 and up.

There are lots more great summer reads in the Orange Marmalade archives. Find them by clicking on the Subject tab, then scrolling down to Seasons.



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My stack of books today glows budding-leaf green and robin’s-egg blue. Oh, what is as cheery and hopeful as spring? Soak up some gladness with these books, bursting with life, growth and new beginnings.

What Will Grow? written by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
published in 2017 by Bloomsbury

For the littlest crop of sweet potatoes, don’t miss this sweet ode to seeds. Susie Ghahremani’s lovely artwork sweeps across the pages with luscious hues of springtime, summer, fall, straight through to the blue-cold of winter. Along the way we peek at seeds — round wrinkly peas, stripey sunflower seeds, snug prickly pine seeds packed into a cone — and discover what will grow from them.

Jennifer Ward’s minimal text provides just the right, lilting clues. She cleverly describes each seed with just three or four words, wisely choosing not to weigh down the delight and wonder of the illustrations.

A few gatefolds along the way augment the thrill of discovery –such fun to see that tall sunflower stretching up-up-up! End pages tell how to sow each of the seeds mentioned. This is a beauty of a book to enjoy with ages 18 months and up.

Over and Under the Pond, written by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books

Gliding along the quiet waters of a pond, observing the burble of life above the surface and the secret worlds below comes this elegant book.

The third collaboration between Messner and Neal, it’s as visually striking and wonder-filled as their previous titles which I’ve reviewed here and here.

Messner’s text revels in the jeweled glory of this watery world with skittering whirligig beetles, mussy busy beavers, ghostly-quiet herons a-stalking, and all the shimmering, dappled light. Neal’s handsome artwork captures the hush, the aqua-depths, the muck and reeds and secretive small worlds. Ingenuous changes in perspective keep every page fresh.

I’m thrilled that he places an African-American boy and mom in this wild, out-of-doors setting. Far too little diversity in children’s literature occurs outside of urban settings.

Learn more about each one of the species presented in several pages of  Author’s Notes. I have to say, as a boating enthusiast, I was bugged by the paddling faux pas here, but truly, this is another winner from this team for ages 3 and up.

Robins!: How They Grow Up, written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow
published in 2017 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A couple of robin siblings narrate the story of their lives in this information-soaked, immensely-engaging book from one of the best picture book makers, Eileen Christelow.

From the migration north of their parents, through nest-building, egg-incubating, and all the care and feeding of those scraggly chicks, Christelow’s text brims with intriguing detail, perfect pacing, and the appealing voice of these young robins. This reads like a story — not a mite of dry, merely-factual tone.

Christelow tracks their growth as they leave the nest, learn to feed themselves, and at about five months of age take to the skies to fly south. True to the realities of nature, two of their fellow nestmates don’t make it that far. Those harsh episodes are taken in stride by Christelow. It’s a fabulous presentation.

Colorful, captivating watercolor illustrations dominate the pages, bringing us eye to beak with these awkward chicks, right into the nest as it were. An Author’s Note tells how Christelow became so enamored with these birds, plus there’s a glossary and a couple Q&A pages with more Robin Facts. A gem for ages 4 and up.

Plants Can’t Sit Still, written by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrations by Mia Posada
published in 2016 by Millbrook Press

The ravishing colors of Minneapolis-artist (woot!) Mia Posada’s cut paper collages are the first thing you’ll notice when you open this book and oh! they will enchant you!

The fresh-lime burst of green leaves, blushing apricot tulips, twilight-purple morning glories, the seductive red of berries lurking in the bushes — every page surges with color, texture, and beauty.

Rebecca Hirsch’s text is every bit as enticing because although you may think of plants as sitting still, rooted in place, Hirsch leads us on a waltz of discovering otherwise. In fact, plants squirm, creep, climb, snap, nod, tumble, fling, whirl, drift…why, they just can’t sit still!

Back pages tell lots, lots more about plants and the particular species discussed in this book.  Genius concept, brilliantly carried out by this team. Full of the wonder of discovery for ages 2 and up.

Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring, written and illustrated by Rebecca Bond
published in 2017 by Charlesbridge

This charming early-reader knocked my socks off and warmed my heart. I don’t know if Rebecca Bond plans any more adventures for these too, but I have my fingers crossed!

The freshness of a spring morning has put Pig in a fine mood. A glorious sun and clear blue sky will do that! “Goody gumdrops!” Pig exclaims, and immediately makes plans for a picnic by the pond.

Pig soon meets up with Goose whose magnificent flying and swimming abilities make her wilt a bit with envy. Goose tries to coach Pig in these goose-y skills but…pigs really aren’t built for such things. Poor Pig! What is it she can do well?

Many things, it turns out, as she hosts a superb First-Day-0f-Spring party! Wow! You will want to be Pig’s guest at her next fiesta I’ll bet! Delectable details, spritzes of beauty, good humor, gladness of heart, and a dear friendship — that’s what’s here. Bond’s fetching watercolor work is the cherry on top. Readers who can manage Frog and Toad can read this on their own, or share it with listeners as young as 3. Lovely!

Wake Up! words by Helen Frost, photography by Rick Lieder
published in 2017 by Candlewick

This is the latest collaboration for poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder. Each one provides a breathtaking pause from the cacophony of noise, the jungles of cement, a step away, a redirect of our gaze towards the glorious spectacle of nature. All done in whisper quiet.

Feast your eyes and soul on the magenta swoosh of a peony, the emerald wetness of a frog, the fuzzy warmth of a newborn lamb. Wake up to manifestations of new life “exploding outside your door!”

I love the work being done by this team, simply bringing children up close to the wonders of nature, quieting them with few words, thoughtful questions, enticing them to wander out of doors. Find my reviews of two of their other titles here and here. Share them all with ages 18 months and older.

Birds Make Nests, written and illustrated by Michael Garland
published in 2017 by Holiday House

Michael Garland’s arresting woodcuts adorn the pages of this book and captivate us with the extraordinary wonder of bird nests.

Minimal text describes some of the vast variety in construction from a hummingbird’s tiny woven cup, to the giant mounds made by flamingos, and one house sparrow’s nest lodged in the pocket of a stop light.

The bulk of what we learn comes via Garland’s handsome prints, flooding the pages with earthy colors and rich texture. I love the minimal interference between the child reader and these wonders of nature. No back pages, even, with more info. Just — soak in the craftsmanship of both bird and artist. A lovely, leisurely wander for ages 3 and up.

First Garden: The White House Garden and How it Grew, written and illustrated by Robbin Gourley
published in 2011 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Children earnestly digging in the soil. Heirloom seeds passed down from Thomas Jefferson. Beehives and ladybugs, eggplants and blueberries. But no beets!

The story of Michelle Obama’s gardening initiative dances with the joy of the earth’s fruitfulness, the brilliance of children learning by digging, sowing, weeding, harvesting, and cooking delicious food in the White House kitchen!

Add in the history of White House gardening down through the centuries from John Adams’ first vegetable and fruit gardens through Patricia Nixon’s garden tours. Sprinkle atop some delicious recipes to try straight from the White House. Then illustrate with Robbin Gourley’s sunny, vivacious watercolors. Ta da! You’ve concocted this delicious book!

A delight to share with ages 4 and up. Plus, you can discover why there are no beets!

There are lots more spring-y titles listed in my Subject Guide. Look under Science: Seasons. And Happy Springtime to one and all!

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I’ll start this week’s list with three gorgeous books about wildlife…

wild animals of the north cover image

Wild Animals of the North, written and illustrated by Dieter Braun, English translation by Jen Calleja
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

This spectacular piece of work by German illustrator Braun introduces us to feathered, scaly, antlered, furry, sleek, tiny and enormous creatures who inhabit the great northern tier of the globe.

wild animals of the north illustration dieter braun

Stretching across North America, Europe, and Asia, on land, air, and sea, the 80 amazing animals in this catalog range from the unusual markhor to the well-known striped skunk; from the mysterious snow leopard to the lounging walrus.

wild animals of the north interior spread by dieter braun

Braun’s arresting shapes and muted, natural colors flood these pages with awe and dignity, while small patches of text converse with us engagingly about quite a number of the entries. It’s a beauty to pore over again and again for ages 3 to 100.

animal doctors cover image

Animal Doctors: Incredible Ways Animals Heal Themselves, by Angie Trius and Mark Doran, illustrated by Julio Antonio Blasco
published originally in Spain; English edition published in 2016 by Laurence King Publishing Ltd

Did you know that capuchin monkeys rub their fur with bits and pieces of various plants in order to rid themselves of parasites? Or that African elephants know just what to munch in order to kickstart the birth of a calf?

animal doctors interior by trius, doran, and blasco

This fascinating book explains some of the extraordinary, clever ways creatures use nature’s pharmacy to rid themselves of fleas, clean wounds, neutralize venom, disinfect nests, and lots more! Just the right amount of information, masterfully laid out in a pleasing format, covers 14 widely-varied animals and their cool skills. A brilliant approach for curious persons ages 5 and up.

amazing animal journeys cover image

Amazing Animal Journeys, by Chris Packham, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft
originally published in Great Britain; published in the U.S. 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books

Charming, pleasant illustrations make this book about intriguing migration habits a perfect fit for young children, ages 2 and older. Lovely!

amazing animal journeys packham and cockcroft

Discover the forths-and-backs of some of the planet’s migration stars, from the pretty little Golden Jellyfish to the mammoths of the seas, the Blue Whale. Perfectly-pitched, brief bits of text feed the curiosities of children and make them more nature-aware.

We’re in the midst of  baseball season, so here are a couple great titles for young fans:

the kid from diamond street cover image

The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton, by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
published in 2016 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This lively biography of a spunky gal introduces Edith Houghton who began playing professional baseball when she was — I am not making this up! — 10 years old. The focus of this story is the slice of her life from ages 10 to 13 making this immensely relatable for young readers.

the kid from diamond street interior vernick and salerno

Edith played for the Philadelphia Bobbies back in the 1920s and even made an epic journey with the team to Japan where they played before tens of thousands of fans. Salerno’s vivid, colorful illustrations whisk us into the 20s and around the world. Enjoy it with kids ages 5 and up.

the william hoy story cover image

The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Jez Tuya
published in 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company

Perhaps you know the story of William Hoy, a ballplayer from Ohio who was immensely popular back at the turn of the century. Hoy had to overcome ridicule and unusual obstacles in order to play professional baseball. Because Hoy entered the sport before there were any hand signals used. And he was deaf.

the william hoy story interior churnin and tuya

This brief, upbeat account shows Hoy’s perseverance and the bright idea he had for umpires to use hand signals instead of only shouting out the calls. Where would baseball be without ’em?! Happy, cartoon-style illustrations keep things light. Ages 4 and up.

And a final, eclectic, fivesome:

city shapes cover image

City Shapes, by Diane Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier
published in 2016 by Little, Brown, and Company

I love the decades of work Tana Hoban did, photographing urban sights that invited children to observe and delight in their world. This new book reminds me of her vision.

city shapes interior murray and collier

Collier’s strong, vibrant collages swizzle us into summer in the city. Murray’s upbeat verse draws our attention to shapes to be spotted in those scenes. Marvelously diverse, inviting us to look and see in new ways. Great mind fodder for ages 2 and up.

nobody likes a goblin cover image

Nobody Likes a Goblin, written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
published in 2016 by First Second

Oh, Ben Hatke, what you do with a pen!!

nobody likes a goblin interior ben hatke

Atmospheric, personality-laden, magnetizing illustration work pulls us effortlessly into this story of a plucky little goblin and his frantic search for an old friend, pursued by hosts of folks who really, really don’t like goblins!

nobody likes a goblin interior 2 ben hatke

Pandemonious delight! Read it again and again! Highly recommended for brave children ages 3 and up.

now you see me now you don't cover image

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t, a wordless book by Silvia Borando
originally published in Italy, 2013; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

This book is a complete hoot!

Put a crew of Crayola-bright creatures onto Crayola-bright pages and watch the ones whose skin color matches the background fairly disappear. It’s camouflage like you’ve never seen before, with just a pair of eyeballs left to blink out at us.

now you see me now you don't illustration silvia borando

No matter what the background color, though, there’s one creature that never seems to materialize. Who could it be? Jolly good fun for little peepers ages 18 months and older.

the mixed up truck cover image

The Mixed-Up Truck, written and illustrated by Stephen Savage
published in 2016, a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

Stephen Savage is back with another earnest, amiable truck. You just can’t help loving these guys!

the mixed up truck interior stephen savage

This time it’s a cement mixer who’s new on the job. His task is to mix up some white powder and water to make cement for the construction site. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. Watch, groan, smile, cheer! A delight for ages Under-Two and up.

alfie outdoors cover image

Alfie Outdoors, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
published in 2016 by Red Fox

Here’s another classic Alfie story, republished by Red Fox who is bringing (thank you!!!) all the Alfie stories once again into U.S. markets. No reason for any child to not know Alfie and Annie Rose!

This story fins Alfie and Dad prepping and planting a new vegetable garden where Alfie is growing carrots as a treat for a special friend of his named Gertrude.

alfie outdoors illustration shirley hughes

Simple, non-electronic, outdoor play is a lovely element in so much of Hughes’ work and this certainly exhibits that. Get inspired for some gardening of your own, with ages 2 and up.

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if you plant a seed kadir nelson cover imageIf You Plant a Seed, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
published in 2015 by Balzer + Bray

Bunny and Mouse are gardening buddies. Into the rich earth they tuck some tiny seeds and after an arduous wait — voila! A magnificent crop!

But just as they’re enjoying their first juicy tomatoes and crunchy carrots, down swoops a line-up of birds. They stand and stare hopefully. Their gleaming eyes feast on the lush vegetables. They. Want. Them! Rabbit and Mouse aren’t about to give up their goods. Soon, a shouting match is underway and even an all-out brawl!

Clearly — if you plant a seed of selfishness it grows into a heap of trouble. 

But what happens if you plant a seed of kindness?

Kadir Nelson uses few words to convey the benefits of generosity. if you plant a seed illustration kadir nelsonInstead he relies on his stunning oil paintings. We’ve been used to his brilliance in his noble portraiture in histories and biographies, but lately he’s taken us on a new ride. These luminous scenes are bathed in the light of high noon — blazing bright color, zoomed in to the action. The figures look real enough to reach out and touch. His perspectives, compositions and characterization are just crazy good. Wow.

And he does not wallop us over the head with a moral lesson. He woos us with sweetness. An absolute gem for ages Under-Two and up.

up in the garden and down in the dirt cover imageUp in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, by Kate Messner, with art by Christopher Silas Neal
published in 2015 by Chronicle Books

Nana and her granddaughter stand in the garden. The snow is retreating and the promise of spring fills their heads with dreams of a new planting season.

It’s not quite time yet to plant. Too wet. But deep in the earth, there are a host of critters already at work, helping them in their gardening efforts. Earthworms break up clods. Pill bugs break down last year’s leaf litter. A few enemies lurk there as well, like the tomato hornworm whose larvae can wreak havoc on the leaves of the tomato plants. (Booo!)

Walk through the gardening year with these two, and learn all about the bustling activity under the ground and amongst the leaves of the garden, until winter descends again, and the garden and its residents settle to sleep.

Kate Messner gave us a lovely glimpse of what happens Over and Under Snow, and now she’s back with this loving look at gardening, just right to share with little mud-grubbers ages 2 and up. She beckons us to observe, appreciate, and enjoy the seasons, produce, and camaraderie of gardening, and learn of the “smaller gardeners” working in the dirt alongside us.

up in the garden and down in the dirt messner and neal

Neal’s mixed media illustrations are handsome, tremendously appealing, ingenuously letting us see multiple levels at the same time. They communicate a refreshing love of the outdoors as well as homey friendliness. An illustrated guide to each of the animals in the book is in the end pages, with more information about them.

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the secret garden cover imageThe Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Tasha Tudor
first published in 1911; illustrations copyright 1962

Mary [stood] waiting, a plain little thing, twisting her thin hands together. She could see that the man in the chair was not so much a hunchback as a man with high, rather crooked shoulders, and he had black hair streaked with white. He turned his head over his high shoulders and spoke to her..

“Don’t look so frightened,” he exclaimed.”I am your guardian, though I am a poor one for any child. I cannot give you time or attention. I am too ill, and wretched and distracted; but I wish you to be happy and comfortable. I sent for you today because Mrs. Sowerby said I ought to see you. She thought you needed fresh air and freedom and running about.”
“She knows all about children,” Mary said.the secret garden illustration3 tasha tudor
“She ought to,” said Mr. Craven. “I thought her rather bold to stop me on the moor, but…now I have seen you I think she said sensible things. Play out of doors as much as you like. It’s a big place and you my go where you like and amuse yourself as you like. Is there anything you want?” as if a sudden thought had struck him. “Do you want toys, books, dolls?”
“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth? To plant seeds in — to make things grow — to see them come alive,” Mary faltered.
“A bit of earth,” he said to himself, and Mary thought that somehow she must have reminded him of something. When he stopped and spoke to her his dark eyes looked almost soft and kind.
“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said. “You remind me of some one else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want,” with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.”

the secret garden illustration tasha tudorMore than a century old, The Secret Garden is another classic piece of children’s literature that I want to highlight this summer in the hopes that some of you will pick up an old book and find a new favorite.

It’s a story about growth, above all else, and the ingredients that make living things — from rose bushes to children — flourish.

Mary Lennox is a sour, spoiled, unremarkable child whose life as a British expat in India has been cushioned with luxuries and replete with servants but severely lacking in affection or proper training. She is selfish, rude, and imperious. So, when she is orphaned and sent to Yorkshire to live at the estate of an elderly uncle, she is in for quite a wake up call.

The staff at Misselthwaite, while kind, don’t believe in pandering to a little girl. Mary is left on her own to explore the vast gardens on the edge of the moor. As she wanders about in the bracing air, a number of the secret garden illustration2 tasha tudortransformations take place:

She becomes healthier by far.
She gains perspective from conversations with folks who won’t kowtow to her.
She meets Dickon, a young boy with an extraordinary knack with plants and wildlife.
And she discovers a hidden garden, seemingly barren of flowers but flush with secrets.

Mary makes another discovery amidst the one hundred rooms of the gloomy mansion — her frail cousin, Colin, as petulant and self-absorbed as she is, languishing in the dark with a troubling secret of his own.

When two children, both quite used to having their own way and saying their say, clash — what happens?
When two children, puny, soft and aimless, seize upon an idea with vigor — what happens?

Watch gardens come alive and children bloom with the help of Nature, courage, honesty, and nurture in this a secret garden illustration4 tasha tudorstory full of magic and hope. Meet a crusty old Yorkshire gardener with a heart of gold, and a wise mother of ten who knows all about the proper nurture of living things. Uncover the mystery of a garden, and a child, both locked away, and feel the strengthening freshness of open doors and outdoor play.

It’s a great read-aloud, and though the title has a feminine ring, the story suits both boys and girls, ages 8 and up. Independent readers need to be stout enough to manage the broad Yorkshire dialect used in much of the dialogue. No movie version I’ve seen does this book justice. Read it for yourself!

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by Walter de la Mare

a book of the seasons illustration eve garnett 001The seeds I sowed —
For weeks unseen —
Have pushed up pygmy
Shoots of green;
So frail you’d think
The tiniest stone
Would never let
A glimpse be shown.
But no; a pebble
Near them lies,
At least a cherry-stone
In size,
Which that mere sprout
Has heaved away,
To bask in sunshine,
See the Day.

I found this poem in a lovely old book called The Book of the Seasons: An Anthology, made and decorated by Eve a book of the seasons cover imageGarnett. She was a British author and illustrator, and we have thoroughly enjoyed her children’s novels and her sweet pencil drawings over the years.

This book has classical poetry, both  full poems and excerpts, that are rich in language, and prolifically illustrated by Garnett. It’s a quiet book, filled with deep appreciation for the natural world as it passes through the seasons. 

I see there are a few used copies for sale on Amazon. Here’s the link:A Book of the Seasons

Elizabeth Steinglass is hosting Poetry Friday today, so visit her blog for links to many terrific posts on poetry.

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john muir america's first environmentalist cover imageJohn Muir: America’s First Environmentalist, by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Stan Fellows

Born in the wildness of Scotland, raised in the wilderness of  Wisconsin, John Muir fell in love with the out-of-doors as a young boy and grew up to champion the preservation of earth’s wild places for all of our sakes.

The immense, craggy peaks of Yosemite, the towering, ancient Sequoias, the vast, rosy depths of The Grand Canyon, the confetti of wildflowers on Mount john muir illustration stan fellows 001Ranier’s slopes — all of these and millions upon millions of acres more, are ours to enjoy, in large measure because of the work of John Muir.

Kathryn Lasky has written a rich, engaging, informative biography of Muir, dropping in to witness his early antics in Scotland, his self-imposed, grueling hours of study and invention in Wisconsin, his 1000-mile walk (!) from Indiana to the Gulf Coast of Florida, his hair-raising explorations in California and Alaska, and his efforts in public policy. Her accounts burble with birdsong and shimmer with sunlight on water. John Muir’s deep love of Earth’s beauties wells up in this account which quotes from his diaries and paints vivid pictures of his frosty, muddy, fresh-air life.

Stan Fellows’ beautiful, vibrant acrylic illustrations capture the grace of wildflower and feather, the mood of open skies and languid bayou, the fiery splendor of autumn and icy blues of glaciers. This is a strong collaboration of word and illustration; reading through it, I felt an enormous yearning to lace up my hiking boots!

Learn about the man who fiercely believed that people need “beauty as well as bread,” in this excellent biography, suited to early-elemenatary and up.

grow_it_cook_it cover imageGrow It, Cook It: Simple Gardening Projects and Delicious Recipes, from DK Publishing, Consulting Editor Jill Bloomfield

Stop-light red tomatoes, hanging from fuzzy stems…
Crimson, bulgy beets, hidden beneath the soil…
Slender, bumpy, bean pods, trailing from clambering vines…


savory tomato-eggplant towers,
rainbow salads,
crunchy stir fry.

Making use of scruffy items you’ve not quite tossed out — old boots, laundry

Mmmm...spicy, mini pumpkin pies, made from the pumpkin you grew!

Mmmm…spicy, mini pumpkin pies, made from the pumpkin you grew!

baskets, cracked scrub buckets — you and your kids can rig up planting containers inexpensively (Reduce and Reuse!), grow gorgeous, fresh vegetables and fruits, then cook them up into delicious dishes with the help of this book.

Wow! So inspirational! Crammed with glorious, full-color photography (DK’s specialty), there are step-by-step directions for growing 17 different plants, from mint to sunflowers, potatoes to strawberries. Okay, the idea that I, in Minnesota, could grow a lemon tree sounds far-fetched. But, truly, most of these are do-able projects, all grown in containers. You don’t need garden space.

Once you’ve harvested your goodies, there are 34 recipes for using them to whip up everything from scrumptious strawberry meringues to hearty, individual loaves of bread, baked in terra cotta pots and topped with home-grown sunflower seeds!  How fun is that?! Fourteen of the recipes are written especially for kids, with step-by-step directions and photos; the rest are nicely grouped on the final pages.

Tips for making your own compost, mulching, and using natural methods of diverting pests, augment the environmentally-friendly potting advice. When we work with the earth, getting that dirt right under our fingernails, pulling carrots up like so much treasure, we value it more. This looks like a dandy place for starting small, in gardening with kids.

one well cover imageOne Well: The Story of Water on Earth, written by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods

All the water in the world runs in a closed circuit — no more water is created as time goes by. It doesn’t grow. The amount of water available when there were a million people on the planet, is the same amount of water available now, with over 7 billion people.

How much do we 7 billion have to share? The amount of fresh, clean, accessible water — in comparison with the total amount of water on Earth — is very, very small;  it’s less than 1 percent of it.

This precious supply of water must serve all the world’s people, as well as most other species of animals. That’s why it’s vitally important that we

Does it matter if she has access to clean water?

Does it matter if she has access to clean water?

step up our efforts to conserve, share, and protect this essential component of life.

Rochelle Strauss, an environmental educator from Toronto, has written a highly-readable overview of these issues. Emphasizing the global concern for water,  she looks at the sources of Earth’s water,  the water cycle, the various demands and problems with that supply, and responsible steps we should take. Helpful comparisons bring meaning to the many statistics in these discussions. Her tone is forthright; she is spelling out a problem in the hopes of encouraging action, not despair.

Rosemary Woods’ ocean-blue paint is the beautiful background for each page. Her captivating illustrations, painted in rich, vivid colors, show a glorious array of pink flamingos and golden sunflowers, stripey zebras, and people, people, people — in saris and hijabs and blue jeans and sombreros.

Water crises are only becoming more severe. This book is an excellent conversation-starter for ages 8 and up on a critical topic.

rachel carson and her book that changed the world cover imageRachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World, by Laurie Lawlor, illustrated by Laura Beingessner

Rachel Carlson was a girl who loved nature, creeping among the shrubbery to snap a photo of speckled eggs, exploring fields, lingering over the stuffed birds in the natural history museum.

She also loved to write, winning a prize and publication in a children’s magazine when she was just 11 years old.

Combining these two loves, Carson made extraordinary contributions to rachel carson and her book that changed the world illustration laura beingessnerscience, and particularly to the protection of our bird populations. Her book, Silent Spring, published in 1962, detailed how the use of some insecticides caused the death of many birds, leading to a ban on DDT,  the flourishing of endangered birds, and a new awareness of environmental concerns.

Laurie Lawlor’s engaging biography ambles pleasantly through the course of Rachel Carson’s life –her childhood in Pennsylvania, her pursuit of biology, her love of the sea and woods and fields, her beginnings in journalism, her challenging life of caring for many family members. The multi-faceted life of this determined person with such a thirst for knowledge, is winsomely portrayed.

Lawlor’s vivid prose is accompanied by lovely tempera and ink illustrations by Laura Beingessner. There is great tenderness, beauty, and reserve in these gorgeous paintings, whether it’s the varied flora and fauna, period fashions, or quiet wonder in Rachel’s face.

A lengthy Epilogue of what occurred after the publication of Silent Spring is written for adults. Source Notes and Recommended Readings are include. This is a captivating book for ages 6 and up.

not your typical book about the environment cover imageNot Your Typical Book About the Environment, by Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Clayton Hanmer

Jam-packed with information on a wide variety of environmental topics, this book, also coming out of Canada (Go, Canada!) aims to provide positive outlooks and action steps,  rather than leave us wallowing in despair. It definitely has a high-energy vibe going  in content, format, and illustration.

The choices we make each day,  from how often we wash our clothes,  to whether we use our own water bottle rather than buying a disposable one, to what we eat for dinner — affect the earth. This book hugely increases our awareness of that, with an upbeat tone.

Four chapters  –fashion, food, technology, and people — each hold a lively smattering of topics. There’s a ton o’ material here, but the presentation makes you feel like you’re nibbling goodies at a buffet rather than drowning in dry facts.

In the fashion chapter, we read a creative explanation of how fossil fuels and clothing are related, an even-handed survey of more eco-friendly approaches to clothing or even airplane

The Swiss go green! Taken on our trip last summer.

The Swiss go green! Taken on our trip last summer.

upholstery, a comic-strip linking fur hats, sea otters, fish sticks and you!, and short entries about how plastic bottles and fleece jackets go hand-in-hand,  a new way Nike shoes are turning up in sports fields, biomimicry, and more.  Each of these topics is illustrated in a zippy, sunny, cartoon-style. Side bars and extra bubbles of info, clever graphic presentations of facts, and bold swatches of color, all move us briskly along from one tidbit to the next.

It’s an eye-opening array of mini-stories that will increase your awareness of many, many environmental concerns, and the ingenuous folks out there coming up with solutions. Geared for mid-elementary and older, the author does a nice job of presenting the problems and solutions with a cool head — among these possible solutions, here are the pros and cons to each one — thereby putting the reader in the drivers’ seat to think these things through. She also determinedly sticks to a hopeful point of view.

A great choice for becoming a well-informed, we’ve-only-got-one-planet, person.

There’s lots, lots more titles to choose from in my Subject Index under Science/Nature, so take a peek there as well.

And here are Amazon links for all these earth-friendly books, with hopes for greener days ahead:

John Muir: America’s First Environmentalist
Grow It, Cook It
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth (CitizenKid)
Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World
Not Your Typical Book About the Environment

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