Elem. – Wildflower

Brown, Melanie. Wildflower. Greystone Kids, 2022. 978-1-77164-906-3. Unpaged. $17.95. PreK-2.

When Daisy blooms in the garden, she is immediately insulted by the other flowers for being a weed. She is told that she isn’t as beautiful as Rose or as tasty as Sage. Her flowers can’t make tea like Chamomile’s. Just as she begins to droop completely in shame, she meets other plants who have amazing qualities, even though they also are called weeds. For instance, Blackberry Vine makes delicious berries, and Sweet Pea smells amazing. Daisy soon realizes there is a place for everyone in the garden, no matter what they are called. Gorgeous, simplified illustrations highlight Daisy’s emotions throughout the story and provide readers with convincing representations of actual plants.

THOUGHTS: This is an adorable story with a subtle message about inclusion, self-respect, and accepting others for who they are. I also love that it incorporates educational information, including back matter about plants and weeds. Give this to fans of The Rainbow Fish (1992) or to gardening enthusiasts.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

MG – The Summer of June

Sumner, Jamie. The Summer of June.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-53448-602-7. 188 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

June Delancey decides that this summer is going to be a season of change. Her goals include conquering her extreme anxiety and becoming a fierce, independent female along with her single mother.  Now that they are free from her mother’s boyfriend (to June’s relief), the two of them can tackle summer together. June’s anxiety can be overwhelming at times; to cope, she pulls whole chunks of hair from her scalp, leaving bloody, scabby patches. Her first order of business for the summer is shaving her head, and her mother follows suit in support of her daughter. At the public library, where her mother works as a librarian, June finds comfort. She meets a boy named Homer Juarez who also likes to hang out at the library. But June knows that it is only a matter of time before Homer realizes her anxiety makes her unworthy of a friendship and so she keeps her distance. June also finds comfort in starting a community garden on library property. When an event causes her anxiety to completely spin out of control and the cranky head librarian threatens to destroy her beautiful garden, June has to face her anxiety head-on before everything falls apart.

THOUGHTS: This moving story about family, friendship, and mental health is perfect for any middle grade student who worries. A sweet note from the author in the back encourages anxious students to embrace themselves as they are and know that they deserve to be seen. Sumner’s book would be a solid purchase for upper elementary and middle grade libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem. – In Our Garden

Miller, Pat Zietlow. In Our Garden. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 978-1-9848-1210-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Millie is homesick for her old apartment, now an ocean away, where she and her family tended a rooftop garden and grew fresh vegetables with their neighbors. Her new apartment building doesn’t have the right kind of roof for a garden, but her school has a large flat one! When she shares her idea about a garden in the sky with her classmates, they are initially hesitant, but soon everyone has ideas about how the garden might look. Over the course of a few months, the students plan, measure, build, plant, and wait to see if their hard work pays off. Vibrant illustrations, composed from both traditional and digital mediums, change with Millie’s mood. Initially, the grays and tans reflect a rainy morning, the city’s cold hardscape, and Millie’s homesickness. However, once she starts believing in her urban garden idea and her classmates and teacher buy in too, the colors shift to shades of green, blue, and yellow. Millie’s classmates and neighbors reflect racial diversity as well as a variety of physical abilities. 

THOUGHTS: This title will be a welcome addition to science curriculum centering on gardening since it presents a nontraditional option that some students may not be familiar with. Additionally, it will fit well with units about neighborhoods working together and with lessons about immigrants settling into a new community. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Nina Soni: Master of the Garden

Sheth, Kashmira. Nina Soni: Master of the Garden.  Peachtree, 2021. 978-1-682-63226-0. $7.99. 179 p. Grades 2-4.

Fourth grader Nina is very excited to finally get a warm and sunny Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day in frigid Wisconsin.  This means she and her sister and friend will get to plant a garden with her Landscape Architect mom! Nina has dreams of starting her own business with all of the extra produce their garden will grow. But gardens take time to grow, and a lot of work as well.  Throughout this illustrated novel, challenging words are defined to help promote unfamiliar vocabulary words.

THOUGHTS: Kids who enjoy outdoor activities and gardening will enjoy this read.

Realistic Fiction           Krista Fitzpatrick, Wissahickon Charter School

Elem. – In a Garden

McCanna, Tim. In a Garden. Ill. Aimée Sicuro. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-5344-1797-7. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

Through rhyming verses and vivid watercolor illustrations, In a Garden explores how things grow. From seeds being planted to sunlight and rain nurturing the plants, readers see all of the various aspects of natural growth both in a garden and in those who nurture and care for the garden. McCanna identifies a variety of flowers and vegetables that grow in gardens, while also describing the duties of the various insects that help the garden grow. The four seasons establish how things grow unseen, and also establish the life cycle with insects laying eggs and a woman, pregnant in the beginning, holding a baby when spring returns after winter.

THOUGHTS: This is a gorgeous picture book. Sicuro’s watercolors represent each aspect of the natural world beautifully, while McCanna’s words are playful and representative of the life cycle. Many readers will see themselves in this text because the garden is in a city, and the humans are representative of the diversity in a city. This picture book is a great introduction to the life cycle, gardening, and caring for the natural world. It would pair well with growing a school garden or just planting a seed that students can take home and grow.

Picture Book        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD