Book Article

Nine To Grow On

Gardening books for children -- ''Your First Garden Book,'' ''A Very Young Gardener,'' and ''The Big Book for Growing Gardeners'' make our list

Gardening books for children

Spring things: Kite-flying, softball practice, bike riding, and gardening. The last activity may seem somewhat daunting for kids — all that planting, all that weeding — but it's not at all. Children love being active outdoors, and they enjoy learning how things grow.

Gardening books written for kids are a good way to teach them about the pleasures of working the land — even if that land isn't much bigger than a dining-room table. The best books offer simple instructions and appealing graphics that encourage kids to get their hands in the dirt right away. The following volumes will inspire any child who has a seed packet, a spoon, and a sunny day.

KIDSGARDENING: A KIDS' GUIDE TO MESSING AROUND IN THE DIRT
Kevin Raftery and Kim Gilbert Raftery, illustrations by Jim M'Guinness
Complete with seed packets and plastic trowel, this book/kit combines kid-friendly illustrations with simple gardening activities. The authors also expound on sun, soil, and nutrients that make the garden a happening place, material that might interest the older child but could make a 6-year-old impatient. Within the first few pages, kids can learn how to build a compost pile and a scarecrow, identify garden bugs, and roast pumpkin seeds (from their own pumpkin patch). The wipe-clean card-stock pages and spiral binding make this book easy for kids to use both in and out of the garden. A-

YOUR FIRST GARDEN BOOK
Marc Brown
Page one: magic beans. Page two: a garden harvest in three days. Marc Brown, best known for his Arthur series (about an adventurous aardvark), has succeeded again, with a first-rate gardening book. The straightforward instructions never talk down to children, yet include all the information that's essential for success. Fans of Brown's other books will recognize his reassuring illustrations. Here the cats, mice, rabbits, and birds show up throughout, alongside directions for growing ''monster'' plants and giant sunflowers. A+

THE VICTORY GARDEN KIDS' BOOK
Marjorie Waters
This book accompanies the Victory Garden public television program and offers complete explanations, drawings, and instructions for serious gardening, all geared to older children. It even has grown-up reminders like ''Don't forget to get your soil tested.'' Ample color photographs chronicle the progress of a real children's garden in photographer Gary Mottau's yard. B

A VERY YOUNG GARDENER
Jill Krementz
Continuing with her acclaimed Very Young series (A Very Young Dancer, A Very Young Gymnast), this well-known photo essayist follows a young gardener as she shops for seeds, plants potatoes with her father, waters seedlings, and harvests sweet corn. It's a comforting book for a young child ready to embark on a first gardening experience, with a simple story line and happy pictures. B+

THE BIG BOOK FOR GROWING GARDENERS
A. Vogel
Short on long-winded discussions about garden preparation, this book gets right to work: Every page shows an activity that can be done quickly and often with swift results. Children learn to grow an avocado plant from a seed and make a delicious avocado dip. From getting bird seed to sprout to raising peach trees, the book offers an enthusiastic you-can-do-it, it's-easy approach that will appeal to children and parents alike. The illustrations are just as approachable. Seed packets and a small trowel that's just the proper size for small hands are included. A+

LINNEA'S WINDOWSILL and LINNEA'S ALMANAC
Text by Christina Bjork and pictures by Lena Anderson
Windowsill is a delightful story told by a little girl who grows the fastest bean in town (the scarlet runner) and holds imaginary Pea Olympics with her peas Split Pea Pete, Green Pea Polly, and Lentil Larry. Solid gardening information is tucked between drawings of bugs under a magnifying glass and stories of outings with the little girl's friend, the appropriately named Mr. Bloom. In Almanac, the equally delightful companion book, Linnea opens a bird restaurant on her windowsill and changes the menu of favorite bird foods (seeds, peanut butter, suet) each month. Both books: A

A KID'S FIRST BOOK OF GARDENING
Derek Fell
A well-known gardening-book author and former garden consultant to the White House, Fell now turns his attention to the youngest generation of gardeners. While the black-and-white drawings by Jon Snyder don't seem as exciting as the graphics in some other books, the excellent writing speaks directly to children. Lots of growing experiments and useful information run between instructions for raising lavender borders, herbs, and gardens that will attract butterflies. B

MY FIRST NATURE BOOK
Angela Wilkes, photography by Dave King
This volume from the award-winning My First series for young children has life-size photographs of sprouting seeds, budding branches, and bottle gardens that make this a useful as well as beautiful book. The activities, which aren't limited to the garden, include flower-pressing and making bird feeders from kitchen materials. This is a book that provides an appealing introduction to nature. B+

Originally posted May 03, 1991 Published in issue #64 May 03, 1991 Order article reprints