The Bear’s Garden (Marcie Colleen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Bear’s Garden, written by Marcie Colleen and illustrated by Alison Oliver, a tender ode to the importance of greenspaces.

In a darkish, grayish city, where it seems everyone is rushing off to somewhere, there lived a little girl and her bear. And while other people seemed content to keep their heads down and ignore the neglected and empty spaces between the buildings, the little girl couldn’t help but imagine her city as a magical place, full of potential for things to grow and blossom. The little girl plants a dandelion seed in a can, but the can tips over and falls to the ground… yet the flower takes root in the concrete itself! Nurturing her little seedling with water, love, and even a garden party, it blooms and spreads more seeds in the empty lot. Passersby begin to notice the greening space and the little girl’s dedication to her plants, and it warms their hearts. Soon, the girl must travel away for a while, and she becomes concerned that, in her absence, the garden will suffer. So she leaves her trusty bear in charge to watch over her small blooms. And when she returns, she finds that something even bigger than her flowers have taken root…

Lovely. This darling tale, inspired by the Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden, is a gentle and meditative look at the importance that greenery and growth can have to not just one person, but entire communities. Drawn with simple illustrations and characters, the artwork deftly plays with dark, light, and color to show how the community grows together as their garden takes shape. The text is soothing and sweet, and makes this one ideal for storytime or a bedtime read. The length is perfect for any age, and JJ really enjoyed the story and art. A comforting and inspirational tale that any green thumb will enjoy, 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.)

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.)

When Grandma Gives You A Lemon Tree (Jamie L.B. Deenihan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When Grandma Gives You A Lemon Tree, written by Jamie L.B. Deenihan and illustrated by Lorraine Rocha, a delightful lesson in appreciating our gifts.

Despite providing a birthday wish list of high-tech toys, the unnamed girl who serves as narrator instead receives a lemon tree from Grandma. Speaking to the reader in second person, she advises that should they be disappointed in this way, it’s important to be polite and accept the unwanted gift with grace, and definitely not pout or whine or destroy the tree. Instead, she advises, go ahead and place it in a sunny spot, don’t overwater, and protect it from pests. The girl (and the reader) find that the more she cares for her tree – with help from her neighborhood friends – the more she grows attached to it. When summer brings a bounty of fresh lemons, she is ecstatic. Grandma helps her make and sell lemonade at a stand, earning her enough money to buy some of her expensive toys… but is that really what she wants after all?

Wonderful! A reminder that some of the best gifts aren’t just things, but experience. Watching the girl grow to love her “unwanted” lemon tree – she even names it “Lola” over the winter – is heartwarming, and the payoff (she uses her lemonade money to purchase plants and convert the empty lot next to her row house into a community garden) is fantastic. The story encourages learning, trying new things, hard work, a love of botany, and a sense of community, and Rocha’s charming characters and vibrant plants and environment are a celebration of all these. The length is perfect for bookworms of any age, and JJ loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book 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.)

Allie’s Garden (Marla Osborn & Sabra Chebby)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Allie’s Garden, illustrated by Marla Osborn and written by Sabra Chebby, an adorable little book about fresh veggies and garden critters.

Today, Allie’s mommy has asked her to go out into the garden to fetch some fresh veggies. Allie dons her gloves and boots and sets out, finding fresh veggies and wild animals at every turn. When she goes to pick corn, there’s a cawing crow. Near the lettuce, a bunny munching on greens. At the cucumbers, a garden snake! Allie is not frightened, though; she shoos the beasts away and gathers her veggies, bringing them to her mother. In return, she is surprised with a fresh garden salad made from the fruits (or rather, veggies) of her labor. 

This little board book was incredibly cute, and a lot of fun to read. The simple rhyming text flows well and the story is enjoyable, but the star of the show is the art. The illustrations combine food photography on fresh white backgrounds with the illustrated Allie to create a world of bright natural colors and creatures made of peas, potatoes, carrots and lettuce. The animals are especially creative: a crow constructed from eggplant or a snake made of cucumber are both visually interesting and make the subject of vegetables fun and interesting for little readers. The length was perfect, and JJ really enjoyed it! This is a creative and clever way to get little ones interested in fresh veggies, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!