“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.” ~ Swedish Proverb
During this time of self-isolation, getting outdoors to observe and enjoy spring’s arrival is not always easy. And not everyone has a backyard or a balcony where they can garden. This does not mean that you can’t enjoy the beauty and mystery of seeds and plants inside your homes, and renew your curiosity about how seeds grow. Even if you don’t have store-bought seeds, you can re-grow vegetable cuttings, save seeds from certain vegetables you are eating or even sprout seeds and beans! Doing these things not only involves children in producing their own food, it provides the basis for a rich inquiry into what seeds are and how they grow. As children learn the words for plants and their parts, they build their vocabulary and they can practice writing these new words (e.g., by labeling a plant). They can develop math skills as they count the number of seeds they plant, make predictions about how many days it will take seeds to sprout, and chart their plant’s growth over time. They can create journals or little books and draw pictures of their observations, turning what they see into art. Below is a collection of some wonderful picture books about seeds. They are filled both with information and gorgeous illustrations, but more importantly they will fill readers with wonder about what seeds are, how they grow and why we should care about them.
Aston, Dianna Hutts and Sylvia Long. A Seed is Sleepy. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2007.
Sylvia Long’s vibrant watercolour illustrations bring to life the author’s collected information about seeds. We learn where seeds can be found, and what they can grow into, whether flower, fruit or tree. We discover that seeds come in many sizes, and that they find creative ways to travel in order to find the space they need to grow. Some are carried by the wind, some by water, and some attach themselves to animals. Readers will learn about what seeds need into order to grow, and discover how plants use the energy from the sun to create their own food. What makes the book fun is how the information is paired with a variety of words to describe seeds, like secretive, generous, fruitful, ancient and inventive. What an invitation to learn new words and use them to ask big questions! Readers will find out how a sleepy seed both can be and become something amazing.
Christensen, Bonnie. Plant A Little Seed. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2012
Christensen’s bright illustrations, with thick black outlines coloured in with ink and colour pencil, resemble woodblock prints, capturing the natural joy that comes with watching a vegetable garden grow. As the children plant, readers are invited to notice and ask questions about the tools required for gardening – a plot of land, assorted seeds, a rake, hoe, wheelbarrow, watering can and trowel. We patiently wait with the children in the book as the roots reach down and the seedlings climb up, each vegetable growing at its own pace. Many things happen as the days, weeks and months pass. Insects, birds and animals visit the garden. The buds that bloom are soon followed by the flowers and fruits. Then when fall arrives it is harvest time. Gifts gathered from the garden are pickled, baked, frozen, and dried or transformed into soups, salads, cakes and pies! The gardeners give thanks for the food they enjoy and look forward to planting again in spring. At the end of the story, additional information is provided about seeds, the parts of plants, the role of insects, and harvest festivals. This lovely book speaks to our dependence upon the earth for food, and what we are fortunate to receive from our gardens.
Hirsch, Rebecca E. and Mia Posada. Plants Can’t Sit Still. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press, 2016
This is a beautiful book for introducing young children to seeds and plants. Readers will discover that plants are very active! Hirsch, who specializes in biology, demonstrates how exciting the secret world of plants and seeds is and that different plants move in their own unique way. They wiggle, squirm, reach, creep, climb, slither and crawl! Seeds whirl, float, drift and glide. All of these movements are part of the adventures had by sunflowers, morning glories, ivy, Venus fly traps and tulips! Even seeds do exciting things, as they drop from trees, are carried by the wind, float down rivers, travel on (and even inside!) animals, and get flung into the world – all a part of how they make new plants! Posada’s gorgeous illustrations, created with cut-paper collage and watercolours, show the wonderful colours and textures of each plant and seed explored in this story. This book would make an excellent part of an inquiry to build children’s curiosity about seeds and plants!
“It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.” ~ Isaac Asimov
Knowles, Laura and Jennie Webber. It Starts With a Seed. London: Words and Pictures, 2017
This lovely book teaches readers about the life cycle of a tree through its rhythmic and rhyming text. While children learn about how a seed grows, they will add words to their vocabulary like root, shoot, leaf, seedling, bark and buds. Over time, and through the cycle of the seasons, the tree grows, reaching its branches ever higher, deepening its roots, and adding one ring to its trunk with each passing year. The illustrations – each a hand-painted etching print – show exquisite details of what is happening to the tree both above and below the ground. We see all kind of creatures like insects, birds and squirrels, who depend on the tree for food and for a home. The book concludes with some interesting information about sycamore trees. The charming pairing of pictures and poetry will enchant readers and invite them into the magical world of trees.
Mackay, Elly. If You Hold a Seed. Philadelphia: RP Kids, 2013
Mackay’s luminous illustrations lend a dreamy quality to her story about the wonder and hope associated with planting seeds. Each page has diorama-style illustrations, containing paper cut-outs, giving readers a window into a child’s fascination with how seeds grow. Through the gentle text children learn fundamental information about what seeds need – soil, sun and rain. The follow the boy’s curiosity about the bees and butterflies that visit the plant. They also learn that nature moves at its own pace, through the seasons and over the years. As the tree grows, so does the boy in the story. The seed once held in the child’s hand eventually is a tree that has strong branches where he can sit (as an adolescent, and later as a grown man with a child of his own). The stunning pictures in this book would provide inspiration for young authors to try to illustrate a book of their own, to represent their understanding of seeds and plants.
Weakland, Mark. Seeds Go, Seeds Grow. North Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, 2012
This non-fiction book is brimming with fun facts about seeds! Illustrated with bright photographs, this book gives readers an up-close look at seeds – from their tough, protective coat, to the food that nourishes what lies within until the seed becomes a plant. The author explains where we find seeds (e.g., flowers and fruits), provides many different examples of seeds, and describes how seeds are transported by wind, water or animals. Young scientists will be very interested in the information about how seeds begin in flowers, and the role of bees and butterflies in pollination. Whether seeds find a place to grow on their own or they are planted by people, with water and sun a seed will transform from a seed, to a seedling, to a plant. A glossary at the end of the book provides definitions for any challenging new words. This resource would definitely deepen an inquiry into the secret life of seeds!
“If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for ten years, plant a tree. If for a hundred years, teach the people. When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest. When you teach the people, you will reap a hundred harvests.” ~ Kuan Chung