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Plants and Gardening

A Little Guide to Trees
by Charlotte Voake
(Eden Project)
This is a companion volume to the artist’s A Little Guide to Wild Flowers (reviewed below) and has a similar square format and appearance of a personal sketchbook. Charlotte Voake’s watercolour illustrations capture the spirit and essence of the trees, some thirty or more altogether, but this is so much more than an artist’s nature notebook. It. is packed with information written by Kate Petty and Jo Elworthy. There is a short section at the start with useful information such as how to measure a tree’s height and how to grow a tree. Then, with the exception of the hedgerow habitat, each featured tree is given a double spread and in addition to the large painting of the whole tree with information about the bark, leaves, height and Latin name, there are smaller seasonal vignettes detailing the changes that occur and showing close-up views of leaves, flowers and seeds, animals that visit or eat parts of the tree, and sometimes, uses to which the wood is put.
In addition there is an index, followed by a scrapbook section that can be filled in by the book’s owner.
This is a book to share, to browse through, to take on walks and, one to treasure and grow with.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Up, Down and Around
by Katherine Ayres, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott
(Walker Books)
Essentially this is a beginner’s guide to vegetables and how they grow. The simple, patterned rhyming text provides basic information on which vegetables (and fruits to be botanically correct) grow above and below the soil, or climb ‘around and around’. Westcott’s jolly watercolour and ink illustrations should tempt children to enjoy both growing and eating the inviting-looking garden produce, as well as showing the myriad bugs, birds and beasts equally tempted by the crops.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Grow your own Nasturtiums
Grow your own Sweet Peas

Illustrated and designed by Ley Honor Roberts
(Eden Project)
These small books are packed with information on growing the seeds in the packet attached to the front cover. Because the books are targetted so precisely at a specific type of plant, they include useful hints like soaking sweet pea seeds before planting and counting the leaves on your nasturtium seedlings to tell when they are ready to plant out. A good gift for children of 10 or under, whether they have access to a garden or not as the instructions include growing in containers.
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Fly Traps - plants that bite back
by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by David Parkins
(Walker Books)
This isn't just about carnivorous plants - it's about Martin Jenkins fascination with them. As he recounts how his own interest in these strange plants has developed, his enthusiasm for the subject spills out of the pages to infect the reader. The mix of picture book text, child-friendly text and yucky facts is likely to tempt readers who remain completely unexcited by runner beans.
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Jody's Beans
by Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Judith Allibone
(Walker Books)
When Jody’s Granda comes to visit one springtime, he brings a packet of a dozen runner beans, which the two plant together. Then, over the spring and summer months Jody tends them (all the while with advice from Granda, either over the phone or in person) till autumn when its time for gathering, eating and thinking about the next year’s crop. Carefully chosen, informative words liberally sprinkled with delightful vignettes and some larger watercolour illustrations together combine to make narrative non-fiction for the under sevens at its best.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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A Child's Guide to Wild Flowers
by Charlotte Voake
(Eden Project Books)
Beautifully illustrated with delicate watercolours, this is a book to keep and treasure. The use of a font that looks like handwriting adds to the visual appeal but, unfortunately, it may also make the text less accessible for weaker readers. But it's worth helping them overcome this problem as the book is otherwise easy to use and the facts about each flower are chosen to appeal to children. The flowers are grouped by colour to make identification easy and there is also an index listing the plants by their common names.
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And the Good Brown Earth
by Kathy Henderson
(Walker Books)
All through the year from late autumn, come wind, snow, rain or shine, Nan and Charlie work in parallel tending the vegetable patch. There’s a time for digging, thinking, planting, watching, weeding, watering, gathering and finally, feasting. And, ‘All the while the good brown earth got on with doing what the good brown earth does best.’ as Nan’s concentrated, methodical approach contrasts with Charlie’s joyful, expansive efforts.
Kathy Henderson’s illustrations have a wild exuberance about them celebrating the seasons and the profusion of nature, not to mention the special relationship between Charlie and his Nan. Simply but eloquently told; this is a picture book to encourage children to feel nature’s rhythms and cycles, to think about how things are forever changing, and to wonder at the beauty and mysteries of creation.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone
by Timothy Basil Ering
(Walker Books)
A small (though special) boy from an utterly desolate landscape, foraging for treasure among the piles of junk, comes upon a strange looking box. The box contains beautiful packages in dazzling colours, each containing hundreds of tiny grey specks. With the help of his monstrous creation, Frog Belly Rat Bone, and lots of care and patience, the boy manages to turn the totally grey Cementland into a veritable riot of colours as flowers, fruit and vegetables grow in profusion.
    A tale of transcendence and co-operation. Highly idiosyncratic illustrations: scratchy, scribbly lines executed against spattered, textured backgrounds in earthy and grey tones are enormously effective in creating Cementland’s desolation. The words too are presented in similarly scratchy, hand-lettered style and the whole conjures the effect of an old battered, hand-made diary or album.
    Not at first glance an attractive book for young children but one whose fascination, in my experience, draws them in and back many times. For all ages possibly.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Starting Gardening
by Sue Johnson and Cheryl Evans
Not all children have access to a garden so this book concentrates on growing plants in pots, window boxes and even jam jars. The ideas are imaginative and, in addition to to the usual sunflowers, radishes and bulbs, it encourages children to sprouts seeds for eating, take cuttings, plant pips and stones from their food and make a fern garden. The instructions are clear with each step illustrated by a drawing and the book includes an index and a glossary.
Ages 6-11+
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A Basic Dictionary of Plants and Gardening
by Nick Wright and Bobbie Neate
(Neate Publishing)
Designed especially for use in the classroom or for home education, this dictionary lists words connected with plants and gardening rather than the actual names of plants. For each word, there is a short paragraph explaining its meaning, a sentence showing it in use and an illustration. The entries are arranged alphabetically on alternating coloured backgrounds to make it easy for children to see where one ends and the next begins. In the teacher's edition, each page has a flap containing ideas for related work in literacy and science.
KS1 and KS2
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Grow organic, eat organic
by Lone Morton, illustrated by Martin Ursell
(b small publishing)
With so much interest in organic food, this book is a useful addition to the school or home bookshelf. After explaining what organic means, it gives an introduction to how plants grow before moving on to how to start a garden, make compost and make a wormery. General instructions on growing plants from seed are followed by more specific tips on particular plants. These are mainly edible and there are recipes to help children enjoy eating what they've grown.
Ages 8+
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Eddie’s Garden
Sarah Garland
(Frances Lincoln)
A smashing introduction to the pleasures and pains of cultivating a garden. Eddie is helped at every stage of the process from choosing a suitable spot, through shopping for seeds, pots and compost to watering, the never-ending battle against garden pests and finally, harvesting, by his mum, not to mention his toddler sister, Lily.
   A great deal of information is transmitted through the narrative, a lot of which is dialogue between Eddie and his mum, and latterly Grandad, who comes to visit. And what better way to end the story than with a family picnic in the garden when Eddie, Mum, Grandad and the irrepressible Lily share the delights of some of the home-grown produce, alongside some of the smaller, garden-friendly creatures.
   At the end of the book there is a practical section containing additional information about all the plants Eddie grew together with practical tips on how to grow your very own ‘Eddie’s garden’.
  Sarah Garland’s illustrations are full of humour and everyday details of both domestic and garden life. A great book to share wherever there are aspiring young gardeners.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Jessie’s Flower
by Ron Bacon, illustrated by Liz Dodson
(Kingscourt Big Book/Shortland Publications)
Stunningly beautiful artwork and a cleverly patterned text take readers from night through the day and the seasons as Jessie sleeps, wakes, plants and tends her seed until finally she has a lovely pink carnation.
The whole thing is narrated by the natural phenomena from the moon :
“Time for night to go.” said the moon.
So the night went.”
through to the flower:
“Time for you to pick me.” said the flower.
So Jessie did.

This big book is a real delight to share with children.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Apple Green and Runner Bean
by Phyllis King
(Walker Books)
For many children, fruit and vegetables are something we buy in the supermarket. This book enlarges that experience by looking at the way they actually grow. Its lyrical use of language to describe the appearance and taste of the food could be a good starting point for descriptive work in literacy lessons.
Ages 4-7 and older children with special needs
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The World came to My Place Today
by Jo Readman and Ley Honor Roberts
(Eden Project Books)
When George is stuck indoors, Grandad cheers him up by showing him how the world has come to visit him in the form of the orange juice, chocolate, paper and other items around the house. A book to set children thinking and trigger their interest in where things come from.
Ages 4+
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