Husband and I met in a horticulture class and have both longed for a garden space in our lives. Our current home in San Rafael has finally given us the chance to grow some green things and eat fresh from the garden. Even though we both enjoy growing plants and digging dirt, our current garden is his in its entirety. He has done the planting, the watering, and the building of amazing woven twig structures that keep out the deer. I wander in sometimes with the three year old and enjoy the dirt and the bugs and the fruits of his impressive labor. It is the garden season of relaxing now, all that needs doing is occasional watering and to watch the flowers turn into fruit. Because it is so lush and full right now I go to the library and gather up books about the way the seasons change in different gardens.
Mystery Vine by Cathryn Falwell is J’s favorite of these three books, and sometimes his favorite book altogether for a couple of days on end. It is illustrated with collaged paper cutouts of a family planting and playing in their garden. The colors are bright and the children happy and sweet with each other. The “mystery vine” is the unidentifiable plant on the edge of the well organized garden the children have been observing while doing the garden chores of watering and weeding and playing until finally in autumn the vine is revealed to be a pumpkin vine. The writing has a lyrical rhyming and a pleasant flow and rhythm. The back of the book has some pumpkin recipes and gardening crafts, which is a nice bonus, but nothing we have never used, so I cannot attest to the tastiness of the pumpkin apple bread. I can however attest to this being a delightful summer garden book.
My second favorite in the garden through the year book is And the Good Brown Earth by Kathy Henderson. This is a story of a grandmother and grandson who journey out to the garden every month or so to plant or weed or water as the season demands. I love the sweet watercolor/colored pencil/collage illustrations in this book. I also love a story about grandma gardeners. This book starts in the mud stomping spring and ends at harvest time with one neat and tidy grandma garden right next to one wild garden all “tangly fantastic” garden that belongs to the little boy. The book does not rhyme, but it does use the repeating refrain “And the good brown earth got doing what the good brown earth does best”, which gives it a lovely rhythm.
While most garden books make the journey from spring through harvest, Isabella’s Garden by Glenda Millard and Illustrated by Rebecca Cool starts at the planting of the seeds and finishes its year with the cold winter and the planting of the seeds left over from the previous year’s harvest. This book follows a traditional style of poem building on itself like the rhyme of “The House That Jack Built”. Here is a little bit, “This is the sun that kisses the clouds that cries the rain that soaked the seeds that slept in the soil, all dark and deep, in Isabella’s garden” (p.5) I find this style compelling to begin with and so much more so when telling a story of seeds and rain and birds. The illustrations are bold and mural-like, which suit the poem well, filling the pages with wide eyed children working together in sun and rain to plant and care for the garden.
Falwell, Cathryn (2009) Mystery Vine. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Henderson, Kathy (2003) And the Good Brown Earth. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press
Millard, Glenda (2009)Isabella’s Garden. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Pres