May 2018

In Celebration of May Flowers: Book Recommendations

By Michelle Spence

The old English proverb “April showers bring may flowers” provides an anchor for this month’s book recommendations and an excuse to peruse seed catalogs, regardless of whether or not you will be planting a garden this spring. Here is a smattering of old and new gardening stories to share and inspire your gardening dreams or realities.

Planting a Rainbow
by Lois Ehlert

Bulb planting in the fall and seed sowing in the spring set the stage for a colorful flower garden all summer long. in the deceptively simple board book Planting a Rainbow, we discover the pace of a garden, the names of over 20 common flowers, and the progression of colors in a rainbow.

A Seed Is Sleepy
Written by Dianna Hutts Aston Illustrated by Sylvia Long

For a more technical exploration of seeds and their grand diversity, the picture book A Seed Is Sleepy expands the botanical world from flowers to flowering plants. Sylvia Long’s beautiful ink-and-watercolor illustrations take us inside the spectacularly varied seed pods as well as underground to witness the seed become a sprout.

The Rose in My Garden
Written by Arnold Lobel Illustrated by Anita Lobel

In this cumulative tale, we start with a single rose and travel along the garden path as the border grows hollyhocks interwoven with marigolds that lean over the daisies and nod to the pansies that are tucked under the tall sunflowers. And all of this setup before the action truly begins! Sort of like the act of gardening itself. Lovely to listen to, and really fun to read.

The Gardener
Written by Sarah Stewart Illustrated by David Small

Lydia Grace’s letters to Uncle Jim, in preparation for her arrival, and to her mom, dad, and Grandma, in anticipation of her return, describe the emotional journey of a young girl sent to the big city while her parents secure work back in their rural town. Along with the hope that things will improve for her family, Lydia Grace brings with her a suitcase full of seeds and dreams of a garden. David small’s full-bleed illustrations read like those of a graphic novel, filling in the fine details of each letter while propelling the story forward. Gardening and good intentions abound.

Tokyo Digs a Garden
Written by Jon-Erik Lappano Illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka

This modern-day fairy tale begins with a familiar trope. On a sunny spring day, a young boy named Tokyo is gifted with three magical seeds and instructed to “Plant these seeds…and they will grow into whatever you wish.” Tokyo, his parents, and a cat named Kevin live with his grandfather in a small house that has been dwarfed by the skyscrapers and billboards of their city. Lifting up a brick in his barren backyard, Tokyo sows the seeds in a smidgeon of soil and dreams of the forest that used to surround his grandfather’s house. He wakes to find three flowering plants, followed quickly (in hours!) by spongy moss, dense shrubs, and tall trees that grow up and over and through the buildings until the entire landscape is transformed into a lush and wild place. His father asks, “What are we going to do?” and Tokyo wisely responds, “I think that we will just have to get used to it.” Kellen Hatanaka’s mesmerizing illustrations combine ink, watercolor, and collage to stunning effect. What are we going to do?

Michelle Spence is a children’s book-seller at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Her favorite books are the ones her kids can quote by heart.

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