I have a new granddaughter arriving soon. That much-anticipated event and early signs of spring have me summoning up my earlier career as a librarian. It’s time to get this baby’s bookcase filled – with books about the garden, of course.
There are many fine picture books for young children – see list that follows – but I’m starting with my two favorites: Barbara Cooney’s "Miss Rumphius" and Peter Brown's "The Curious Garden." In addition to the authors also being the illustrators, the books have a similar theme: gardens make the world better.
Ms. Cooney, who died in 2000, is among the most celebrated American children’s book author-illustrators and the winner of two Caldecott Medals, the annual prize given for the “most distinguished American picture book.” "Miss Rumphius" won the National Book Award in 1983.
Calling the story one of “the closest to her heart,” Cooney writes of a little girl who sets three goals for when she grows up: to visit faraway places, to come home and live by the sea, and to do something to make the world more beautiful.
She eventually fulfills all three goals, but it is the third, making the world more beautiful, that is the most difficult. Until, that is, she discovers that the wind has spread the seeds of her lupines and decides to help nature by sowing lupine seeds wherever she walks until there are so many blooms that she becomes known as the Lupine Lady.
It’s a warm, charming story, gloriously illustrated in acrylic and color pencil. A classic.
Peter Brown, with four picture books under his belt, promises to have a notable career. "The Curious Garden" is a fictional account of the wonderful new garden – High Line Park – that has been created on an abandoned elevated railway over lower Manhattan.
In Brown’s version, a curious young boy named Liam discovers struggling plants on a rail bed and decides to help them grow. In time, the plants take on a life of their own, spread throughout the city, and transform it from gray to green.
And new gardeners pop up as well as new plants. Like the Lupine Lady, Liam not only makes the world more beautiful, he illustrates what a difference one gardener can make. Lively illustrations done in acrylic and gouache. A new classic.
If you’re looking to fill a bookcase, consider the following titles, all picture books written for young children. Many are available in paperback and as board books as well as in hardcover. (And if you have favorite books to interest kids in gardening, do mention them in a comment below.)
• The Carrot Seed by Krauss, Ruth.
• The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small.
• City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
• The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen and Irene Luxbacher.
• Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert.
• Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White.
• Flower Garden by Eve Bunting and Kathryn Hewett.
• Sunflower House by Eve Bunting and Kathryn Hewett.
• Quiet in the Garden by Aliki.
Karan Davis Cutler is one of nine garden writers who blog regularly at Diggin’ It. She's a former magazine editor and newspaper columnist and the author of scores of garden articles and more than a dozen books, including “Burpee - The Complete Flower Gardener” and “Herb Gardening for Dummies.” She now struggles to garden in the unyieldingly dense clay of Addison County, Vt., on the shore of Lake Champlain, where she is working on a book about gardening to attract birds and other wildlife.
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