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Springtime brings about a wonderful and new change in our side of the
planet. From the longer days, warmer air and sunnier skies we receive a
renewal and a rebirth of the earth. The following picture books celebrate
working and planting in the deep dark soil and reaping the benefits of that
labor.


"And The Good Brown Earth", written and illustrated by Kathy Henderson, is
clearly an example of toiling and preparing the ground with love and
devotion. Gram, and her little "Joe", begin way back in the fall to prepare
the ground. As Gram digs with her spade turning the soil over and over, Joe
digs as well. His holes seem more for making a heap of muddy fun, but his
enjoyment is conveyed in his face. As Gram and Joe leave the vegetable
patch, "the good brown earth got on with the doing, what the good brown
earth does best." Through the winter, Gram and Joe played in the vegetable
patch by tromping around in the snow and building snowmen. And as winter
turns to spring, Gram and Joe begin to plant. Gram has cleared the way for
the seeds to be planted in nice orderly rows. But Joe, on the other hand,
has his special area and plants his seeds, "Here, there, and
who-knows-where." As the earth goes on and does what it does best, you see
the pictures fill with the beauty of the new season. Squirrels run along
branches dressed in newly adorned puffs of greens and whites. Birds fly and
land atop of the highest branch and far below the earth is covered in a
spectacular scene. The book progresses throughout the growing season with
Gram and Joe at the helm of the patch. The celebration of the changing earth
is enjoyed in Gram and Joe's enjoyment of the garden. There is a delightful
lesson learned from Gram. Her wonderful relationship with Joe is strong and
true. She lets him enjoy the earth in his own way as he copies her tilling
and planting example.

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"How Groundhog's Garden Grew", written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry, is
one of the best picture books on how to grow a garden that's geared for
children. Groundhog was hungry and takes food from a garden that belongs to
squirrel. When squirrel catches him, he decides to help groundhog grow his
own garden so that he won't have to take from others again. What takes place
throughout the rest of the book will fill a child's mind on the process of
growing a garden. Squirrel shows Groundhog the many different kinds of seeds
found inside of plants, demonstrates how to transplant potatoes that are
spouting leaves, helps toil the soil, and even shows how to space larger
growing plants. There is so much to learn from this beautifully illustrated
book that a youngster will truly understand the whole process of planting a
garden. Ms. Cherry even includes how important helpful insects and birds are
to keep harmful bugs and birds away.  Her illustrations not only fill the
page with bright paintings of growing plants, but there are illustrations
and names of bugs, seeds and plants that border some of the pages throughout
the book. By the end, there is no doubt that a child will have a clearer
understanding of what it takes to prepare and grow a garden. The only thing
missing, besides weeds, is a hoe and some actual seeds. But, be prepared,
your child will probably want to get the garden ready.
"A Packet of Seeds", by Deborah Hopkinson, is a celebration of the growing
season with a different story to tell. The American westward movement back
in the early 1800's brought excitement to own land, but also meant tough
living conditions. This is a story about a pioneer family whose father found
some land far west from where the family is currently living. Mother is
happy where she currently lives because she has a home, friends and a sister
who lives close by. Uprooting and moving brings about hardships as the
family settles onto their new land. When mother gives birth to a baby girl,
she seems to sink into a sad state of unhappiness. She has no desire to get
up, go outside or even name the baby. But her dear daughter, Annie, seems to
understand what her mother misses most to make this new place a home. Her
father is so busy preparing and planting crops that he can't help her right
now. But, because of her concern for her mother, Annie convinces father to
help. The miracle of a small garden breathes life, hope and the warmth of
home back into mother. This "packet of seeds" is beautifully illustrated by
Bethanne Andersen.

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 And now for the newest edition of books on this subject: "Whose Garden Is
It?", is written and illustrated by two of my favorite authors and
illustrators. Mary Ann Hoberman has a special ability to write her text in a
gifted rhyming rhythm. Jane Dyer paints with such beauty and brilliance, one
hopes to see her famed pictures on murals or calendars.  The story takes
place as Mrs. McGee is out for a walk pushing a youngster in a stroller when
she encounters a gardener, rabbit, woodchuck, bird, worm, wasp, bee,
butterfly and so on. Each says that the garden belongs to them. Even the
trees, sun and rain lay claim to the garden enlightening the reader as to
the importance of all living things in nature. So, get out your shovel and
hoe and prepare to reap your rewards!