Apr 20, 2021

Rolling Along During EARTH WEEK: Garden Picture Books

 The books I've shared during 2021 Earth Week have stressed the significance of generational values and shared practices, of traditions, of commitment. That is true for both picture books by the Pumphrey brothers, THE OLD TRUCK and THE OLD BOAT. Then two picture books titled OCEAN SOUP,  about ocean environments, support the significance of learning about and acting on specific issues, across generations. If you missed either of these posts I hope you''ll click and check them out. 

Moving forward, today I'm declaring GARDENING day. This time of year there is an almost primal impulse to sow seeds, to feel the soil under our feet and in our fingers. Offering kids an opportunity to plant and grow a seed is a priceless gift, even if it is simply a sunflower seed in a paper cup. And yet the reality is that the REAL thrill of gardening is the return on investment of labor and love and relationships spent in gardens. Time and experiences often shared across generations.

A very recent release is MY NANA'S GARDEN, written by Dawn Casey and illustrated by Jessica Courtney-TIckle

I had to wait a bit to read this one, since it was backed up on my library hold. That should tell you something about it. Here's what Kirkus had to say  in their starred review: 

"Over the years, a little girl pays many visits to her nana’s house and garden...As the seasons cycle, the girl and her mother continue to visit and, increasingly, to help her nana in the “lovely and wild” garden....There is so much beauty in this heartwarming story. Written in rhyming couplets, the simple text flows smoothly. The stunning, delicate illustrations fill in the gaps left by the text, depicting the charm of the garden, Nana’s aging, the family’s emotions, and the girl’s growth. The artwork provides a wonderful display of three—and then four—generations and the love they share. The girl and mother have brown skin and long, black hair while Nana has paler brown skin and white hair...A beautiful, touching story of a family’s love and loss, the garden both metaphor and place of healing." (Kirkus Starred review)

Starbright Books, 2016
A terrific partner picture book is centered in a natural setting, not a family garden. GRANDMA IS A SLOWPOKE is written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Michele CoxonGentle text and images allow readers of any age to appreciate the delicate balance of long/short, old/young legs and minds. All the best picture book advice went into this one, with repetition, anticipation, ironic humor, and warm relationships enriching an already appealing story,

This will pair well with another recent picture book release: SIDEWALK FLOWERS (JonArno Lawson). And in case you missed it, check out my recent review of the glorious celebration of life, GROW, by JoAnn Early Macken, HERE. 

Finally, in this string of "bonus titles" related to celebrating nature across generations, explores the underlying truths about our family stories:  WATERCRESS, written by Andrea J. Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin. 

Has there ever been a child who did NOT feel embarrassed by a parent(s), who was not reluctant to take part in activities of parents, who did not judge their parents as "less" than other parents they observe? 
If so, I've never met those kids. It is a natural process in childhood to push back, and a natural part of parenthood to HOLD back- hold back stories that might make clear their own lives, experiences, struggles. That is universal, but it is even more pronounced among families involving immigration, migration, and relocation.When families are compelled to move, they often pack away the reasons for those moves, the stories behind lives left behind. Those stories become secrets, and yet continue to surface in the new lives and homes.
This story is written and illustrated with the tenderness of watercress leaves, but supports each gentle page of the story and the story-within-the-story on a foundation of resilience, love, and appreciation. Highly recommended for all ages and readers, with a special boost as mentor text to very young writers of "small moments" and adult writers of picture book stories with layers of heart and soul and reflection.

Here's hoping that wherever you are as you read this, the season and the weather surrounding you will invite you outdoors, into the wild or the gardens of your lives. It's asking a lot to care about the wider planet and its environment until we cultivate the deep appreciation of growing things in our immediate lives, especially in the company of people we love. 

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Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.