by Marsha Rakestraw
“The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden.” ~ Thomas More
Gardens are full of life, diversity, and wonder. They feed us physically and emotionally. They can be made of plants, rocks, or other materials. And their seeds can blossom into food, or memory, or hope. Gardens of all sorts are powerful tools for learning and exploring, including with younger children.
Here are 12 children’s picture books about the power of gardens.
1. The Patchwork Garden/Pedacitos de Huerto by Diane de Anda
2013. Grades PreK-3.
Toña loves her grandmother’s stories and the patchwork quilts she makes. When Abuela expresses a wish for a garden, she and Toña get the idea to use little patches of land around the neighborhood to grow vegetables. When others want to get involved, they form The Patchwork Garden Club.
2. Uno’s Garden by Graeme Base
2006. Grades K-3.
Uno loves the forest and plants a garden and builds a home amongst all the plants animals. But things aren’t so great when others start to move in and the forest and animals begin to disappear.
3. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
2009. Grades K-3.
One day when Liam is out exploring his dreary, ugly city, he comes across a struggling garden. Liam’s decision to take care of the little garden leads to a transformation of the entire city.
4. Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole
1997. Grades PreK-2.
A cumulative tale that traces Jack’s garden from tilling the soil to enjoying the flowers, while also showing the interconnectedness of nature.
5. On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
2007. Grades K-3.
Caroline and her family move to a suburb full of lawns and cookie-cutter houses on Meadowview Street. When she discovers a single flower in their lawn, Caroline decides to create a little “wildflower preserve” and cordons off a small area. Eventually she makes additions (a tree, a birdhouse, a pond) that attract more wildlife and turn their yard into a beautiful oasis of nature. Soon the whole neighborhood is inspired to do likewise.
6. City Green by Diane DiSalvo-Ryan
1994. Grades K-3.
When a lot becomes vacant near their building, Marcy and her neighbor decide to create a community garden. Soon nearly the whole neighborhood is helping out, supplying equipment, time, and love to create a lush oasis that even the local curmudgeon can appreciate.
7. The Last Tiger by Rebecca Elliott
2013. Grades K-3.
Luka lives in a future “where the people had forgotten what was important. There were no trees, no plants… and no animals.” One day Luka stumbles upon the last tiger, who has caught his paw in a metal can. Luka helps him, and he and the tiger become friends. When the other humans discover the tiger, they capture him and put him on display in a cage, but when Luka and the tiger bring the others to see the beautiful, secret garden that the tiger has been nurturing all these years, the humans are reminded of the beauty and importance of the natural world and ask the tiger to help them return the world to its once-beautiful state.
8. Water, Weed and Wait by Edith Hope Fine
2010. Grades K-3.
A cheery rhyming story about elementary school kids who clean up a patch of the school yard and turn it into a lovely garden with the community’s help.
9. A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope by Michael Foreman
2009. Grades K-4.
When a young boy discovers a tiny green shoot amidst the rubble and ruin that has become his home after a violent conflict, he nurtures the plant (a grapevine), until it grows so large that it covers the fence that separates him from the soldiers and people on the other side. It becomes an oasis for animals and children. Although soldiers from the opposite side of the fence destroy the beautiful vine, the green shoots on both sides of the fence leave the boy, and a girl on the other side a reason to hope and to rebuild the oasis.
10. If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
2015. Grades PreK-3.
When the seeds rabbit and mouse planted grow into a little bounty and other animals come to call, they have the opportunity to learn about selfishness, or about kindness. And as they learn, the seeds of kindness “… are very, very sweet.”
11. The Garden of Happiness by Erika Tamar
1996. Grades K-4.
When Marisol’s neighbors join together to turn a junky lot into a community garden, Marisol wants to plant something, too; but all the plots are taken. Undeterred, Marisol takes a mystery seed she finds on the street and plants it in a sidewalk crack, caring for it diligently until it turns into “the happiest plant” (a huge sunflower), which fills the neighborhood with joy.
12. The Forgiveness Garden by Lauren Thompson
2012. Grades K-4.
Two villages, living on opposite sides of a river, have been engaged in a long-standing feud. When a young man from one village injures a young woman from the other village, hatred and calls for revenge grow. But when the young woman is given her chance for retribution, she instead chooses to build a forgiveness garden, with the young man who had hurt her, to help bridge the divide between the two peoples and begin the journey of healing and forgiveness.