“Songs of soft petals, and songs of leaves, we dance all the blooms in our breeze bouquet.” ~ George Shannon, Dancing the Breeze
With the climbing temperatures and the children’s growing interest in flowers, leaves and living things, I felt inspired to create a small collection of some of my favourite picture books about the garden. Within their pages lie inspiration for nature inquiry, creative art, poetry writing and dancing. I hope these will add colour and creativity to your children’s learning experiences!
Carlstrom, Nancy White and Jerry Pinkney. Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna. New York, NY: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1987.
Carlstrom’s free verse captures the innocent curiosity and enthusiasm of a child who is one with nature and experiencing nature with all of her senses – the sun warm on her skin, the soil sifting through her fingers, the taste of berries, the buzzing of bees, the sweet smell of the grass, and the imaginary view from a tree bough. Pinkney’s bright illustrations, rendered in watercolour, gouache and coloured pencil, allow readers to join in Anna’s adventures as she rolls down hills, digs in the garden, skips in the meadow, hops in the stream, finds insects beneath rocks, and smells golden flowers. Anna eventually falls asleep in the grass, her day the kind of beautiful, flower-filled summer dream that every child’s days should be.
Ehlert, Lois. Planting a Rainbow. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1988.
Ehlert’s bright collage illustrations, coupled with the books’s large text, support early readers as they learn about bulbs, seeds and seedlings and discover the names of a variety of plants and flowers. Children will watch as red tulips, orange poppies, yellow daffodils, green ferns, blue delphiniums, and purple phlox emerge from the soil. They will learn about the planning that goes into helping a beautiful garden grow and the cycle of planting flowers, picking them and planting again next year. The books inspires an exploration of colours, an inquiry into plant growth, and the discovery of plant names from aster to zinnia!
Lewis, Richard (editor) and Ezra Jack Keats. In a Spring Garden. New York: The Dial Press, 1968.
This lovely collection of haikus by Issa, Basho, Onitsura, Kyoroku, Buson, Chora, Gyodai, Shiki, Ryota, Uko and other, anonymous poets, describes different aspects of the garden using the simplest words. Readers wonder if snails like the red morning sky; they ask grasshoppers not to trample the dew; they have staring matches with frogs; and watch sparrows bathing in the sand. Keats blends gouache with collage, filling each page with bamboo, birds, bats, bugs and butterflies, and giving readers gentle images of moonlight reflected on the water, and a glimpse of the milky way through a torn paper window. The book invites children to try to write their own poetry, and create images for them in Keats’ distinctive style.
Preller, James and Huy Voun Lee. Cardinal and Sunflower. USA: Harper Collins Publishers, 1998.
Lee’s exquisitely detailed cut-paper illustrations compliment Preller’s story about the habits of a family of cardinals. After a mother and daughter scatter sunflower seeds in the park to feed the winter birds, a male cardinal courts his mate by cracking a seed for her. As winter becomes spring, and as a sunflower quietly grows in the background, readers will discover how cardinals care for their young and prepare them for independence. From the materials used to construct a nest, to their songs, to the foods that cardinals eat, to the number of days it takes for eggs to hatch, readers will share in the author’s research on ornithology. They can make their own discoveries about birds, and about sunflowers as well. This book invites a lovely nature inquiry, and the inspiration to create unique art using a variety of papers.
Shannon, George and Jacqueline Rogers. Dancing the Breeze New York: Bradbury Press, 1991
This sweet poem tells the story of a father and his child as the music of the evening breeze and the light of the rising moon set the stage for them to dance in their garden, amongst the alliums, chives, poppies and pinks, lupines and phlox and forget-me-nots. The breeze leads father and child around the garden, inviting them to join in a dance with the flowers. Rogers’ gentle and playful watercolour illustrations set the perfect tone for this poem, capturing the knowing look between father and child as the moon appears, the joy that they feel as they are moved about by the breeze, and a father’s affection for his child as she falls asleep in his arms. This wonderful, magical book could easily inspire creative movement or painting to music.
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero