Calgary has had a glorious spring. This means that our gardens are well ahead this year and everything seems to be growing madly. My recommendation today captures that sense of busy-ness that is part of the natural world whether we’re aware of it or not.
Up in the garden Down in the dirt by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal captures the wondrous transformations that our gardens undergo all year round. It has a slightly poetic or sing-song feel while looking into what’s going on in the shared garden of a grandmother and granddaughter.
The author explains in her note that --
“Every garden is a community garden. Do you know why? You may work hard planting seeds and pulling weeds, but plants can’t thrive without the help of all those smaller gardeners down in the dirt.”
Spring is a time of anxious waiting, planning, and hoping for gardeners and a time of thawing, drying, and slow stirrings in the soil below. Eventually, clean up begins, seeds are sown, and insects begin to appear.
Back and forth we go between what is happening in the garden with the little girl and her grandmother, plants growing and insects flying with the activity at or below ground level which shows growing, tender roots, earthworms, and other creepy-crawlies. It sets up an interesting rhyme while providing insight into all the work that is going on especially the work that we don’t often notice.
Summer comes and with it is weeding and enjoying the early vegetables. I especially loved the illustration of the grandmother and granddaughter ensconced in the garden under a ‘house’ of sunflowers tied together reading a book in later summer.
Fall is a busy time as animals prepare for winter and gardeners bring in the last of their harvest. A last illustration shows a layer of snow on the ground and what has burrowed into the soil; dead plants, seeds, huddles of insects, and eggs.
A few pages at the back of the book provide additional information about the many creatures we see in the illustrations to learn what both pests and good bugs do in the garden. (Did you know that pill bugs are land-based crustaceans who help clean up decaying plants and add nutrients to the soil?) The author also includes a short list of juvenile books that explore different aspects of garden activity.
Besides being a terrific resource for classrooms with connections to the primary science curriculum in Alberta, it’s a book to just enjoy and learn from for a young audience (pre-school-grade3).