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Great reads for children

  • Dot Zanotti Ingels
  • THE WINTER CHILL is quickly upon us and we will soon be spending more time indoors with the children in our lives. There is nothing better than cuddling with a child and reading them a good book.

    As they become independent readers it is great to hear them share what they are reading with us. I have found several books that tie my love of gardening with my cherished time with my grandchildren.

    There are lots of great books about garden projects that we can do with kids or that have a scientific bent to them. However, cozy winter reading time calls for a book that is fun and imaginative.

    For young children and early readers, great illustration is a must. They will surely learn a little something, but the joy for everyone is in the sharing. We can plant seeds with them in more ways than out in the garden.

    I have some suggestions for tried and proven stories that enchant and inform all at the same wonderful time. I got some additional suggestions from Greta Gouldin, a first-grade teacher at San Ramon School in Novato. To assure that my recommendations would keep up with the kids as they grow and become independent readers I went exploring at the library.

    I will start with my favorites for preschoolers and primary grade kids. "Spot's Little Book of Fun in the Garden" by Eric Hill is a board book with flip up delights on every page. Wee kids love it.

    "The Curious Garden" by Peter Brown is about a curious boy who discovers a small struggling garden on an abandoned elevated train track in the middle of his drab, gray city. He starts to help the plants grow and they soon take on a life of their own that transforms the city and its citizens. I was reading a magazine recently and found that a garden park had actually been established on the High Line above the bustling streets of Manhattan. The kids loved seeing the connection. The pictures are good, too.

    I found "Whose Garden Is It?" by Mary Ann Hoberman in the children's section of West End Nursery in San Rafael. As Mrs. McGee walks by a lush, beautiful garden she wonders who owns it. The gardener says it belongs to him but the woodchuck, the butterfly, the bumblebee, bugs, seeds, and the soil all stake their claim on why the garden actually belongs to them. The story is in charming rhyme with colorful illustrations.

    "The Tiny Seed" by Eric Carle is a classic story of the life cycle of a plant told through a tiny seed's adventures. "Miss Rumphius" by Barbara Cooney has the title character setting off to see faraway places and then beginning to make the world more beautiful. "In Linnea's Windowsill Garden" by Christina Bjork, Linnea loves plants and she gives us an entertaining tour of those she has all over her room. "Flower Garden" by Eve Bunting and Kathryn Hewitt is a beautiful book about an urban child and her father who plant a window box for their apartment. We all love flower gardens, but "The Ugly Vegetables" by Grace Lin shows how we can learn to love a patch of ugly veggies. "One Bean" by Anne Rockwell and Megan Halsey has 3-D paper sculptures that show what happens when you plant a little bean seed. In "Plants That Never Ever Bloom" by Ruth Heller, rhyming verse introduces a world of night-time glowing mushrooms and gigantic seaweed with not a single flower to be seen. "The Reason for a Flower" by Ruth Heller is another book of rhyming verse that is fun and introduces a lot about plant parts and their functions.

    There are some good nature books for middle school children to read and share with you. "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean George is a good choice for young readers who enjoy the outdoors. In the story, a young boy runs away and discovers he needs to live off the land for his survival. This is a book that has been beloved by generations of readers and passed down in families.

    "Nicky the Nature Detective" by Ulf Svedberg follows a little girl doing nature observations through the seasons. The story is told in words and watercolors. Anne Ophelia Douden, the author of "From Flower to Fruit," is a botanical illustrator. This classic beautifully introduces the reproductive cycles of different flowering plants and gives the reader an imaginative way to learn botany.

    Make a visit to a bookstore, nursery or library with a young friend and enjoy this time to spark a child's interest with ideas that may translate into shared time outdoors exploring their home gardens and the natural world around them.