- Author: Arwen Griffith
- Editor: Susan Kornfeld
- Editor: Cynthia Nations
Many of us in the UC Master Gardener program fell in love with gardening as children, introduced by an older friend or family member who was a passionate gardener. Our mission is to teach the public about gardening sustainably, and what better way than to educate the next generation? With so many children learning at home for the foreseeable future, finding good resources is even more important. Here are some books you can enjoy with the children in your life to share the magic of growing things! Many are available as e-books from your local public library; can be found through online reading platforms like Epic!, Tumblebooks, or Bookflix (which can either be accessed through the library or are offering free 30-day trials during the shutdown); or ordered through your local bookstore.
Plants Feed Me. Written and illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell. Holiday House, 2014. Nonfiction, ages 3-6.
Rockwell's engaging illustrations are the heart of this book; they show a diverse group of children interacting with plants, learning about nutrition as well as biology. The book explicitly makes the connection between plants and foods that don't intuitively look like their origins by showing wheat seeds ground into flour. Detailed and beautiful illustrations include call-outs about the different parts of plants that humans eat.
From Seed to Plant. Written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons. Holiday House, 1991. Nonfiction, Ages 4-8.
Gail Gibbons' nonfiction books for children are classics. Her friendly, stylized watercolor illustrations pair with rhythmic informational text; she doesn't talk down to kids or shy away from scientific terminology. A project at the end makes this especially useful for parents at home!
City Green, by DyAnne Di Salvo-Ryan. Harper Collins, 1994. Fiction, ages 4-8.
Young Marcy thinks an ugly abandoned lot in her neighborhood looks like “a big smile with one tooth missing.” With the help of friends and neighbors, she transforms it into a thriving community garden. 25 years later, this heartwarming classic still resonates.
A Seed is Sleepy. By Diana Hutt Gibbons. Illustrated by Sylvia Long. Chronicle Books, 2007. Nonfiction, ages 5-8.
Two levels of text are aimed at a range of readers: on each page, a simple, almost poetic, line speaks to the youngest children, while a block of text with more scientific detail lets older kids dive into the subject more deeply. Long's gorgeous botanical watercolors are worth the read on their own. (Related titles like An Egg is Quiet are also worth a look.)
On Meadowview Street, by Henry Cole. Greenwillow Books, 2007. Fiction, ages 4-8.
This sweet story shows a boring suburban street morph into a true meadow, home to birds, butterflies, and bees, thanks to the out-of-box thinking of young Caroline. She starts by saving a single wildflower from her father's mower, and soon the entire neighborhood is transformed. A great reminder that kids can make a difference.
Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots. By Sharon Lovejoy. Workman Publishing, 1999. Nonfiction, ages 4-10.
With lists of “top 20 plants for kids,” instructions for harvesting seeds, craft ideas, and suggestions for a Pizza Garden, this treasury of tips, resources, and projects is indispensable for adults trying to get kids excited to dig in the dirt and start gardening.
Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate. By Sara Levine. Illustrated by Masha D'yans. Millbrook Press, 2019. Nonfiction, ages 7-11.
“You seem like a bright kid,” the narrator, a prickly cactus, confides, “so I'm going to let you in on the conversation.” Glorious, over-the-top, almost psychedelic watercolors match the quirky narrative voice.
- How Does My Garden Grow? By Gerda Miller. Floris Books, 2014.
- Plantology Series (Healing Plants: Medicine from Nature, Cooking with Sunshine: How Plants Make Food and Poison Petals: Don't Eat). By Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing.
- Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the World. By Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler. Lee & Low Books, 2010.
- Miss Rumphius. by Barbara Cooney. Puffin Books, 1985.
- The Curious Garden. by Peter Brown. Little, Brown, 2009.
- Can You Hear the Trees Talking? Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest. By Peter Wohlleben. Greystone Books, 2019.
- Botanicum. By Kathy Wills. Illustrated by Katie Scott. Big Picture Press, 2017.
Arwen Griffith is a UC Master Gardener and graduate student in library and information science who lives and weeds with her family in San Francisco. The article was edited by UC Master Gardeners, Susan Kornfeld and Cynthia Nations.