Read Aloud Thursday: Gardens

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One of my favorite Five in a Row books is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. It’s a great book all alone but it’s also a perfect way to begin a spring study on gardens. This year I was thrilled to discover And Then It’s Spring, a new book by Julie Fogliano. It’s a simple book about a boy and a dog who wait and wait in the brown world for their garden to grow. They grow tired of waiting and despair that the world will always be brown, only to find one day when they wake up that it is green. And suddenly it’s spring. I loved this description as it’s often the way I feel about spring. It often feels to me like I look around and suddenly the world is green overnight. The illustrations are by Erin Stead, who did the illustrations for the Caldecott winner A Sick Day for Amos McGee. I like her style, it’s sweet but with just enough quirky to keep from being saccharine.

Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden by Edith Pattou was another new book for us. Mrs. Spitzer is a wise and experienced teacher who receives a packet of seeds every fall from her principal. She nurtures and feeds and waters these seeds until the little plants grow and flourish. The seeds and plants are of course her students and each description of how she gardens (getting rid of weeds, knowing that some seeds need special attention, knowing that plants all have different appearances and characters) all refer to the children and how she teaches. My kids did not get the book on the first reading but I asked some gently leading questions and John figured it out quickly. We then read through it again and had a great discussion about all the different analogies (what are the weeds she has to get rid of). It ended up being a really good lesson for multi-ages. Ruth just liked the pictures of little flowers with funny faces. David liked the story and enjoyed getting the “joke”. John got into it more and really enjoyed discussing it a bit more in depth.

In this endearing book by Andrew Larsen, a little girl loves visiting her grandfather’s garden. When he moves to a new apartment without room for a garden she is sad until they decide to create their own imaginary garden. Using a giant canvas and paints they create a world for the two of them to share. After reading it I had my kids go out and make their own imaginary garden with sidewalk chalk.

This beautifully illustrated book by JoAnn Early Macken (illustrations by Pam Paparone) focuses on the different ways that seeds are spread. From coconuts to dandelions to burdock seeds, a different seed is highlighted on each page. David is not a huge fan of non-fiction books so I’m always happy to find one that holds his interest. This one had a lot of good information but told in way that was engaging to him. I think the illustrations and the use of frequent onomatopoeia helped make this more than just a bunch of dry facts.

More garden and seed books:

Mortimer’s First Garden by Karma Wilson
Mortimer the mouse plants his first garden and is amazed at the miracle of a small seed turning into a huge plant. I love Wilson and although this book is different from her others, it doesn’t disappoint. 

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
I’m a huge fan of the husband and wife team of Sarah Stewart and David Small. This 1998 Caldecott Honor Book tells the story of Lydia Grace, a young girl who must go live in the city with her uncle during the Depression. While there she creates a secret special garden for him. It’s a fantastic companion to Miss Rumphius as it has the same theme of bringing beauty to the world. 

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
A classic and really, you can’t go wrong with anything by Ehlert. 

A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Ashton
Ashton’s non-fiction books with Sylvia Long’s illustrations are some of my favorites.The drawings are gorgeous and the information is detailed. 

Yucky Worms by Vivian French
Really, what gardening study is complete without mention of worms. One morning Ruth and I went worm hunting outside and then read this really fascinating look at some of the most important inhabitants of the garden. 

Be sure to check out what others are reading at Hope is the Word.

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