A Bounty of Books: Picture Books to Celebrate Summer Gardens

In this season of farmer’s markets and garden harvests, my thoughts are often on homegrown tomatoes and plans for next year’s garden. But before we get there, 2020 provides a bountiful harvest of picture books to celebrate the growing season and all the benefits of time in the garden. Whether you’re looking for sweet, silly, or informational, there’s something here for every little gardener in your library.

What Grew in Larry’s Garden
Laura Alary, illustrated by Kass Reich
Kids Can Press
Age 4-7
April 7, 2020

Grace thinks Larry’s garden is one of the “wonders of the world” and spends each season helping him nurture it. They work together to solve problems like bugs, squirrels, and the shadow created by a neighbor’s new fence. But Larry also using his garden to teach his students, and Grace, about growing community. Based on a real-life teacher and garden, this sweet story, and its lovely gouache illustrations, is full of inspiration for friends, problem-solvers, and gardeners.

One Little Lot: The 1-2-3’s of an Urban Garden
Diane C. Mullen, illustrated by Oriol Vidal
Charlesbridge
Ages 3-7
March 3, 2020

This not-so-simple counting book tracks the progress of a diverse group of neighbors as they transform an empty neighborhood lot into a vibrant community garden. With imagination, teamwork, a few green thumbs, and some helpful honey bees, both the neighbors and readers will enjoy the journey and delicious harvest. A thorough author’s note provides insights into the author’s inspiration, facts about honey bees, and tips for making your garden more bee-friendly.

Feast of Peas
Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
Peachtree
Ages 4-8
March 1, 2020

Jiva diligently tends his small garden by weeding, watering, and waiting for his favorite veggies—the peas! But each time some are ready to pick, they disappear. Is it rabbits? Is it ghosts? Jiva sets a trap for the pea-thief and catches his friend Ruvji, who’s been admiring the peas all along. As punishment for his tricks, Ruvji is the one to cook a feast of peas, and he’s lucky Jiva is generous enough to share. Richly colored illustrations highlight the lush Indian setting and add to the silly humor in this delightful tale.

Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures
Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Elaheh Taherian
Candlewick
Ages 4-8
May 26, 2020

Khalil loves to spend his days in the garden with his downstairs neighbor, Mr. Hagerty. When digging in the garden leads to disappointing results, they each find a way to make the other’s day. Their days in the garden grow into a sweet intergenerational friendship with plenty of chocolate cake! The simple story and charming collage art will inspire conversations about all the treasures to be found when we work together.

Maker Comics: Grow a Garden!
Alexis Frederick-Frost
Roaring Brook Press/First Second
Ages 9-13
February 25, 2020 (Paperback)

The new students at Garden Gnome Academy have a lot to learn about gardening, but Mr. Butternut and the school staff have a lot to teach them (and you) about how to get started. With lessons on selecting seeds, making paper seed pots, composting, and sprouting the seeds, the gnomes are getting a hands-on education. This bright and funny graphic novel contains step-by-step instructions for many of the tasks needed to start a garden, all tucked within a story full of friendship and adventure.

Kinship Project

voice from afarThe Butler Center opened in its permanent space two years ago today on September 11th, 2011, the tenth anniversary of that infamous day in world history. To commemorate that occasion we curated an exhibit called the Kinship Project, a collection of books for children and teens that speak to our human kinship. We created a catalog with notes that speak to each of the 29 books connection to the idea of kinship. I link here to the online version. We have some print copies as well (beautiful, actually) and I’d be happy to send some along to you, too. Just fill out the form below with your name and address and I’ll get them in the mail.

How about you? What do you remember of that day? What do your memories have to say to your work with books and young people? Where do you see kinship among the collections we keep?

Lion vs Rabbit

lion vs rabbitLion vs. Rabbit

by Alex Latimer

Peachtree, 2013

Lion is the king, and something of a bully. He steals Hyena’s lunch monkey. He gives Buffalo a wedgie. Baboon puts an ad in the paper, looking for someone to put lion in his place. Bear and Moose and Tiger arrive on a plane, ready to challenge Lion, one by one. Lion wins, every time. Then comes Rabbit. Rabbit chooses his own contests (marshmallow eating, painting, trivia) and wins each one. Lion relents, agreeing to bully no more, and rabbit takes his leave. As his ship departs we learn that he is in fact a bunch of rabbits, chosen specifically for the individual contests. And, indeed, looking back through the book we see evidence of the subterfuge. For every rabbit competing there are other rabbits hiding, their ears or tails peeking out from behind rocks or hills or tall grasses. Droll details and comic characterizations add wild panache. The story’s skewed humor and buoyant charm delight on their own, but the regular opportunities for the listener to know just a little more than the protagonist elevate this outing from mere felicity to full-on fun.