Plant, Sow, Make, & Grow: Mud-tastic Activities For Budding Gardeners (Esther Coombs)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Plant, Sow, Make, & Grow: Mud-tastic Activities For Budding Gardeners by Esther Coombs, an extensive guide to help young green thumbs start their first garden.

Gardening can be a wonderful hobby, but it can also take a lot of work and know-how. This guide aims to help little gardeners with their first foray into planting a full garden, offering 38 different projects split into the four seasons, in addition to tips, tricks, background and historical information, and fun facts about their favorite fruits, veggies, and flowers. Kids can learn to recycle milk jugs into watering apparatuses, cultivate tomatoes in hanging containers, make seed bombs, and much more, all while spending a year raising a garden of corn, pumpkins, sunflowers, and other beautiful and tasty plants.

This was a pretty amazing guide! While it’s definitely geared more toward middle-grade readers, it’s a great way for adults and kids to get into gardening together, as many of the activities would require some form of adult assistance (though this is very rarely mentioned). Coombs’ pen-and-ink beautifully detailed illustrations explode across the page, and call to mind the look of classic almanac art with the addition of rich color. This is a European import, so some of the advice isn’t applicable (there are not adjustments mentioned for climate zones, for instance), but most of it translates well. There’s also a strong focus on recycling, ecology, and conservation that earth-lovers will appreciate. JJ was a little young for most of the content, but she loved the illustrations; however, JJ’s daddy – an avid gardener – was very excited to share it with her when she’s a little older. Overall, a wonderful way to introduce garden care to young readers, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Growing Season (Maryann Cocca-Leffler)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Growing Season by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, a sweet tale of friendship and flowers.

El and Jo are the best of friends. The smallest kids in their class, they find that when together, they’re just the right size: the right size for their cozy little desks, and for sharing the reading chair, and for helping each other reach the high places. But when spring comes, Jo suddenly sprouts a few inches… and now El is all alone in being small. When class ends for the year, the students each choose one of the flowers they’ve grown to take home and care for over the summer. All the other kids reach over El to pick the ones with lovely blossoms, leaving her with a spiny little green aster. Jo offers her colorful zinnias (she’ll be traveling over summer), and El plants them side-by-side in the garden , “so they can be best friends”. All summer long, El tends the flowers while she and Jo write letters back and forth, and when summer ends, the girls are ecstatic to be reunited. Rushing to check on their flowers, they find that the slow-blooming aster has finally revealed stunning purple blossoms, and looking at each other, they come to realize that the flowers are not the only things that have grown.

A lovely, gentle tale of female friendship. Framing a spring and summer of growth around the plants, Cocca-Leffler deftly weaves in themes of feeling inadequate, how friendships can change and evolve as we grow, and having patience with ourselves with a great sense of subtlety and softness. Her delicate, spring-colored illustrations fit perfect with both these themes and the story, and allow Jo and El especially to show a lot of emotion in an expression or a pose. Backmatter features a short look at the different life cycles of plants, the length is great for any age, and JJ really liked it. A wonderful reminder that, while it may take a little longer sometimes, we are all meant to bloom. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this books was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Piggy And Plants (Allison Remy Hall)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Piggy And Plants, written by Allison Remy Hall and illustrated by Samuel Pullin, a cozy and sweet story of a green-thumbed little pig caring for his garden through the seasons.

Our story follows the quiet gardener Piggy through the four seasons, split into four miniature stories for each one. In summer, Piggy wakes late one night to sip sweet tea and watch his night-blossoming cactus’s first bloom. In autumn, the little gardener is pleasantly surprised to find a delicious mushroom has taken up in his geranium pot. In winter, Piggy and his duck friend, Kak, enjoy a snowy day inside Piggy’s warm plant nursery. And in spring, Kak gifts Piggy with three pots of surprise seedlings to tend.

Of all the self-published books that have been submitted to us, this is one of our favorites. Piggy and his plants are positively charming in a gentle, warm way that puts a smile on the reader’s face from the first page. The language, rhythm, and content of the text sets a peaceful, soothing tone, reminiscent of the quiet and meditative work of plant care, all while exploring each season through the world of a gardener. The original oil painting art is a treat, creating precious characters, fresh gardenscapes, and snug interiors. The cover might have been a bit more distinct if the title, author, and illustrator information had been integrated, but the length is fine, and JJ really enjoyed the little pig and duck. A lovely tale for little readers, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

It Starts With A Seed (Laura Knowles)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the absolutely lovely It Starts With A Seed, written by Laura Knowles and illustrated by Jennie Webber, the gorgeous and informative tale of a seed growing into a mighty tree.

A “helicopter” sycamore seed flutters down to the ground, and here our story begins. As the illustrations show the seed taking root, growing shoots then branches then leaves and bark, the rhyming text describes each stage of the new tree’s life cycle in poetic verse. At last, a mighty sycamore has grown, providing shelter to a plethora of woodland animals. Finally, as the tree grows and disperses seeds of its own, the story of a seed begins again.

What a positively charming book! While the seed-to-tree story has certainly been done before, the combined effort put into this quietly majestic version makes it a standout. The text flows beautifully, giving the plot a weighty yet soothing feel, like a cozy blanket. The pen-and-ink illustrations are finely detailed in a realistic style reminiscent of nature guidebooks, and bring the tree, its features and its inhabitants to fascinating life. Even the quality of the paper and binding fit the tone of the book, which will leave little readers appreciating the full life lived by every tree. The length was perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. Absolutely Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

What Will Grow? (Jennifer Ward)

Hello, everyone! Our book today is What Will Grow?, written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Susie Ghahremani, a sweet look at how different types of seeds grow into plants, flowers, and trees.

Told in short rhymes, each page shows the journey of each unique type of seed: from the seed itself to a sprout, then ultimately to the grown plant it will become. The rhyme describes each little seed (from flat, oval pumpkin seeds to hard acorns), asking the reader to guess “what will grow?”, sometimes utilizing fold-out pages to show the more grand or surprising plants and trees. It ends with an appendix that shows each seed type, their maturation rate, and how seeds take root to become plants.

This was a cool and very informative book. Its simple couplet rhymes make it a quick read, and the detailed illustrations of each seed and plant are both educational and filled with color and whimsy to enchant little readers. I loved that animals were included on each page as well: it gives the a book an extra teaching element for readers learning their woodland critters. The fold-out pages were great, though I wish they had been more consistently used throughout (only a fraction of the plants introduced used them, and they were great for upping the suspense of what plant was growing). But overall, this was a fantastic book for teaching young readers about how plants grow, biodiversity, and all the possibility that can be held in one little seed. Baby Bookworm approved!