By Teresa Woodard
With this week’s launch of Joanna Gaines’ book “We Are the Gardeners,” I’m reminded of the joys of reading garden-themed picture books. Their beautiful illustrations and engaging stories appeal to kids of all ages – including big kids like me. As a bonus, these books often weave in valuable life lessons like patience and environmental stewardship as well as more practical ones like seed planting and tending soil. Here are 14 favorites (including three additions from Deb) to enjoy with your own children and grandchildren. They also make great gifts.
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Author and illustrator Lois Ehlert of Milwaukee, WI, draws in readers with her colorful paper collage illustrations. Her rainbow of flowers entices readers to plant their own colorful cutting garden. Other favorites by Ehlert include Leaf Man, Growing Vegetable Soup, Eating the Alphabet, Waiting for Wings and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (illustrated by Ehlert and written by Bill Martin Jr.).
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carl
While many are familiar with Eric Carl’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar about a caterpillar’s journey and transformation to a butterfly, his lesser known The Tiny Seed illustrates another life cycle – one of a flower through the adventures of a tiny seed.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein teaches the value of giving from the perspective of a tree that gives and gives sacrificially to a young boy throughout his life.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Chrysanthemum, the mouse heroine of this story, loved her name until she started school and her classmates teased her about being named after a flower. She eventually meets her music teacher Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle and suddenly blossoms.
The Secret Garden
An unlikely trio of children — an orphan girl, a nature-loving local boy and a spoiled boy in a wheelchair — make friends in a Yorkshire mansion’s abandoned garden where their friendship grows as they transform the garden.
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear – by Don and Audrey Wood
I’m always growing or harvesting local strawberries and even worked a summer on a strawberry farm, so I fell in love with Little Mouse who does all he can to save his strawberry from the Big, Hungry Bear, even if it means sharing it with the reader. Other berry-loving books include Jamberry by Bruce Degen and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Based on a true story, Alice Rumphius or the “Lupine Lady,” strives to make the world a more beautiful place by scattering lupine seeds everywhere she goes along the coast of Maine.
Curious Gardner by Peter Brown
I’m moved by this young boy Liam’s quest for a greener world, one garden at a time. While out exploring one day, he discovers a struggling garden and decides to care for it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world.
Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole
Come to the garden that Jack planted. With each new page, readers are introduced to more and more garden treasures — seeds and seedlings, buds and leaves, and eventually flowers and the birds, bugs and butterflies they attract.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
Messner shares the hidden world beneath the garden and its soil teaming with insects, water, nutrients and plant roots. Readers will gain a new appreciation of soil’s valuable role in the garden throughout the seasons.
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
This delightful story shares the hope of a young boy. When he plants a carrot seed, everyone tells him it won’t grow. But he faithfully waters his seed, pulls the weeds, and waits… until a carrot plant triumphantly emerges.
Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork
This is a delightful introduction to Monet, Impressionism and Giverny for pre-teens and older. For younger children use it more like a picture book and skip most of the text. An older book, it can be found at used book stores and in the library.
There’s a Hair in My Dirt by Gary Larson
When your teenager says that he or she doesn’t read kid’s books, hand over this dark, comedic tale of nature and the assumptions we make about how it all works. A tale of caution is told by Father Worm to little worm and the tale’s ending has a twist. This book should be required reading for every biology student. Warning: this is Gary Larson and there are one or two off-color words in the captions.
Tales of Peter Rabbit and His Friends by Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter’s beloved stories are packaged many ways. You can find anthologies and sets of small books – great for little hands – of the individual stories. Whichever form you choose, be sure to check that they are illustrated by Beatrix Potter. Her charming animal figures beautifully accompany her short, sweet vignettes that relate the lessons of life. These are stories that stay with you for your whole life.