Books and Barrows: Gifts for Growing Minds

Sue Williams
Adams County Master Gardener

This week's theme for this gardening article revolves around a wonderful crop of picture books for wee ones and books for older children that value nature and provide heartwarming stories about the magic of growing things. If your child or grandchildren have shown any interest in gardening, perhaps helping you with planting or designing a flower bed or vegetable plot, why not stimulate this interest with a book or two as gifts this holiday season. Better yet, combine the books with a REAL red Radio Flyer wheelbarrow for hauling dirt, rocks, sand, snow, leaves and sticks- and fill it with toys and books for Christmas. This little wheelbarrow is just like the one adults use, but sized for 2-5 year olds.

Back to the books. The following list of books has been selected because they come recommended by parents, teachers, and librarians and because they seem just right for growing minds with a sense of wonder

Garden by Robert Maass is a photo-essay about gardens through the seasons. The book explains "tips of the trade" such as the importance of compost and worms to nourish plants and the right time to plant bulbs. This introduction to gardening is brought to life with beautiful photographs taken in the Children's Garden at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Children learn that gardening isn't difficult, it just takes time and patience. Amen

Children's author Sharon Lovejoy begins Sunflower Houses this way: "For the past dozen years, I have earned my living by growing, selling, and teaching about herbs and flowers." She has gathered a collection of garden-themed crafts and activities for adults to share with children. Aimed for children ages 9-12, readers will learn how to make a wand out of lavender, a hat out of leaves, or a whistle out of a willow bough. Memories of your childhood gardens just might trigger conversations and family stories around the dinner table at Thanksgiving

The picture book, I Spy in the Garden, by Richard Powell, encourages the beginner reader's little fingers to turn the big sturdy flaps and point to the large print and colorful pictures. This is a great read-aloud book for a toddler's library

Sembrar Sopa de Veduras by Lois Ehlert is another wonderful informative picture book with colorful pages of vegetables. Children love reading this to each other and then making the soups. Remember Stone Soup? Same idea. The Spanish text is geared for children ages 8-10 years old. Down to Earth is a collection of stories about flowers and vegetables by forty-one children's authors and features wondrous illustrations, recipes, and fun activities. For ages, 10-13, author Michael Rosen has given us a treasure that explores nearly every aspect of gardening

An early reader, Jack's Garden Picture Book begins with "This is the garden that Jack planted." Different types of tools fill the borders of the pages (each labeled) that Jack uses in planting his garden. He encounters critters in the soil, clouds that produce rain, buds, flowers, seedlings, plants and the final produce. This book would be a great gift to inspire "young garden helpers." Published by Greenwillow Books, author Henry Cole also includes tips on how to start your own garden

Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots: Gardening Together with Children is an encyclopedia of gardening chock full of ideas for families with energetic children ages 8-12. There are experiments galore, recipes, charming illustrations, and information to entice everyone to dig in the dirt. The book features all kinds of gardens and would be a great gift for teachers and libraries. Sharon Lovejoy had fun writing this informational, inspirational resource for children and adults

One more book by Georgeanne and Ethel Brennan sounds delicious! The concept for Children's Kitchen Garden: A Book of Gardening, Cooking, and Learning came from the teachings at the East Bay French-American School in Berkeley, California. As part of the school's curriculum the kitchen garden became an integral part of their daily lessons. Included in the book are planting instructions for more than thirty common vegetables and herbs, and the step-by-step process from planning to preparing foods. Lastly, as you leaf through all those garden catalogs this winter and early spring, take the time to talk with children about what they might want to grow, teach that popular folk song, Inch by Inch, and consider that little red wheelbarrow.

Read other articles by Sue Williams