If you are like me, I get through winter by thinking about spring. I plan my little vegetable patch. I look for signs of spring with the bulbs that I planted in the fall — tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth — peeking through. A garden and the bounty it brings is one of life’s great joys.
My husband and I still talk about that one tomato that we grew on our patio in West Los Angeles that stayed on the plant forever. When we finally harvested and ate it, it was the sweetest tomato that we had ever tasted. He always plants too many tomato plants in our garden in memory of that perfect tomato and then it becomes a structural engineering effort to keep the tomato plants from collapsing under the weight of the fruit.
My latest thing is to grow Japanese cucumbers from seed that I start in March and put into the ground in late May, once the threat of frost is over. I can’t buy Japanese cucumber seedlings and Japanese cucumbers themselves are hard to come by. I usually can get a dozen or so little plants and I only keep two for myself so my friends all started growing Japanese cucumbers in pots, reporting back to me when they get a flower or a tiny bud of a cucumber. These cucumbers are thin-skinned and unusually crunchy so they are wonderful as a quick pickle or raw in a salad. I can’t wait for spring!
Please welcome my guest author today, Kari Percival. She is also a fan of gardening and shares her list of favorite picture books on growing a garden. I hope this inspires families to grow their own garden whether it’s a collection of pots on a window sill or a patch of ground or a community garden. I find that kids will eat their vegetables when they have grown them themselves.
We are giving away a signed copy of How To Say Hello to a Worm. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom.
How to Say Hello to a Worm by Kari Percival
Once toddlers and preschoolers have their hands in the garden, investigating the dirt, they don’t like to stop. To ease the transition at the close of our weekly gardening sessions, we say “Let’s clean up and put everything away. Then we’ll read a story!” When hands and washed and watering cans are put away in the bin, we all gather on the stone wall to have a snack and listen. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
Here is a list of some of Kari’s tried and true favorites.
p.s. Here’s a new one:
The Garden We Share by Zoe Tucker, illustrated by Julianna Swaney
This sweet picture book celebrates small moments in relationships — between a girl and older woman, but also between a seed and a garden. Think A Seed is Sleepy + Birdsong. [piture book, ages 3 and up]
Picture Books on Growing A Garden
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Stunningly vibrant colors, simple shapes, and brief, direct text introduce the youngest children to growing plants for food. From planting seeds to harvesting to making soup, Lois Elhert’s book Growing Vegetable Soup vividly shares all the steps of gardening and preparing a feast. [picture book, ages 0 and up]
Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
“Where can you plant your anywhere farm? An old empty lot makes a good growing plot. But a pan or a bucket, a pot or a shoe, a bin or a tin, or a window will do.” Phyllis’ Root’s Anywhere Farm is a musical read with an empowering message. Root’s playful “What if” visioning exercise leads us to re-imagine and reclaim spaces in our communities as places for growing food and flowers, like “Kale in a pail. Corn in a horn.” G. Brian Karas’ joyful illustrations match the tempo. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
Up to My Knees by Grace Lin
Author/Illustrator Grace Lin’s Up to My Knees teaches math by showing how to use one’s body to measure plants. We follow Mei’s observations, from the time she plants a tiny seed, to the exciting culmination: “Wow! It’s a sunflower! And it’s taller than I am!” Comparing the plant to her body as it grows helps readers build a natural foundation of key early math concepts and vocabulary. [picture book, ages 0 and up]
What Will Grow? Jennifer Ward and Susie Ghahremani
“Roly, round. Rain-soaked ground. What will grow? Peas!” In Jennifer Ward’s book, What Will Grow?, Susie Ghahremani’s beautiful illustrations offer clues to help pre-schoolers guess the answers to lyrical riddles. This book is fun, short, sweet, and encourages observation and science inquiry. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
The Talking Vegetables retold by Won-Ldy Paye, Margaret, H. Lippert, illustrated by Julie Paschkis
In The Talking Vegetables, Spider shirks in bed while his neighbors work together to grow vegetables in the community garden, but later on, when he tries to sneak some, the vegetables won’t put up with his moral corruption, and give him an unexpected fright! After a busy session of the garden club, I can count on this hilarious story, a retelling of a traditional African folk-tale, to hold the attention of a very young group. For older kids, this story is a great jumping-off point for a discussion of everyone working together to provide for times of need. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Mole’s Hill by Lois Ehlert
In Mole’s Hill, bossy, bullying neighbors Fox, Raccoon, and Skunk tell Mole her hill needs to go, but instead of obeying them, Mole has a trick up her sleeve. When Fox and Racoon return to see if she has followed their directions, they are flabbergasted to see she’s turned her hill into a beautiful garden of native edible pants! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
How to Say Hello to a Worm GIVEAWAY
We are giving away a signed copy of How To Say Hello to a Worm. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom. We can only mail to U.S. and A.F.O. addresses.
New 2022 Children’s Books on Gardening
Planting a Garden in Room 6: From Seeds to Salad by Caroline Arnold, 3-7 years photographic illustrations, March 2022
Miguel’s Community Garden by JaNay Brown-Wood, illus. by Samara Hardy, March 1, 2022, Peachtree, age 3-7
How does a Seed Sprout: Life Cycles with the Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle, My 17, 1-3 years. May, 2022
The Wild Garden by Cynthia Cliff, ages 5-9 May 3, 2022
What’s Cooking in Flowerville? by Felicita Sala, April 5, 2022, ages 5-9
Bea & Flea and the Compost Caper by Anna Humphrey, illustrated by Mike Deas, ages 6-9, April 15, 2022
Grow: A Family Guide to Plants—And How to Grow Them by Rizaniño Reyes, illus. by Sara Boccaccini Meadows, offering information on plant “heroes” and how to grow them, ages 8-12, 2022
And a few more…
Brooklyn’s Finest: The Greene Family Farm by David Miller, illustrated by C. J. Love
Brooklyn’s Finest: The Greene Family Farm is a fun, scintillating story for the entire family. On many weekends Akosua and Booker Taliaferro Washington Greene and their parents are surrounded by dirt, fertilizer, vegetables, and fruit. The Greene Family runs an organic farm in the heart of Brownsville’s section of Brooklyn. The Greene Family Farm grows and sells zucchini, corn, cucumbers, kale, broccoli, lettuce, and other fruits.
Brooklyn’s Finest: The Greene Family Farm features rich, colorful illustrations and a wholesome storyline ideal for children grades 2nd & up. [picture book, ages 7 and up]
How to Say Hello to a Worm: A First Guide to Outside was inspired by environmental educator Kari Percival’s experience leading the Early Birds’ Garden Club at her local urban community garden with her young children. As they gardened, she noticed what questions children and their parents had, and how they found the answers together. She wrote this book to inspire more kids and their parents to get their hands dirty. Kari studied Environmental Science and Science Teaching at Antioch University New England, and art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives just outside Boston, MA. To learn more, please check out her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karipercival.
p.s. Related posts:
Top 10: Best Picture Books for Spring
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.