I’m lucky enough to be able to use what little I know of gardening to work with various youth groups. During those years, I’ve built up a collection of really good children’s books on the subject. Here are a few of my favorites.
The Gigantic Turnip by Aleksey Tolstoy – From a Russian folktale that is just made for reading aloud. I’ve even used this as an interactive children’s story, where audience members play all the different parts. The illustrations are lively and colorful, and provide the perfect backdrop to the efforts of a farmer, his wife, and a host of farm animals as they try to pull an giant turnip from the ground.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney – An inspirational tale of Miss Rumphius. As a child Miss Rumphius resolved that when she grew up she would go to faraway places, live by the sea in her old age, and do something to make the world more beautiful–and she does all those things, finally accomplishing the last with the help of lupine flowers.
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens – Lazy Bear sleeps through every planting season, so conniving Hare makes a deal. He and his family will work Bear’s land and split the crops in half. He’ll even let Bear choose which half he wants–“tops or bottoms.” Bear chooses tops so Hare plants root crops, leaving Bear with a useless harvest. A furious Bear insists next time he’ll take bottoms so Hare plants corn, leaving empty stalks. A very funny book with great illustrations. It has the added advantage of teaching kids about the different parts of plants.
Inch by inch: the Garden Song by David Mallett – I originally heard John Denver sing this song, and I enjoy teaching the song to young gardeners. Here is the same song in picture book form. The story starts with a young gardener walking down the garden path:
Inch by inch, row by row,
gonna make this garden grow.
All it takes is a rake and a hoe,
and a piece of fertile ground…
Your First Garden Book by Marc Tolan Brown – This is a great resource for projects for beginning gardeners. It gives clear instructions for how to sprout seeds, plant and care for plants, often using materials found around the house. Unfortunately the only way to get a copy of the book is through ebay; it’s out of print.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – A book that I can say influenced me and my love of growing things. It tells the story of Mary, a contrary and unloved orphan that comes to live on an estate in the Yorkshire moors where she discovers the mysteries of a locked garden and a renewed life with newfound friends.