Elem. – Love Makes a Garden Grow

Yoo, Taeeun. Love Makes a Garden Grow. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-1-534-44286-3. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.

Among a garden full of beautiful blooms and lush greens, a young girl grows. With a watchful, loving eye, her grandfather cares for her and his plentiful plants. The two favor different flowers – she peonies, he orchids – but they care for the garden together, humming to the plants. Surrounded by plants, the little girl feels her grandfather’s love. As she grows and experiences life’s changes – like moving away and eventually having a family of her own – plants make her feel like she is loved and home.

THOUGHTS: This sweet intergenerational story would be perfect to celebrate grandparent’s day. Stunning pencil illustrations are brought to life with digital coloring. Highly recommended.

Picture Book

Elem./MG – Rooting for Plants: the Unstoppable Charles Stewart Parker, Black Botanist and Collector

Harrington, Janice N. Rooting for Plants: The Unstoppable Charles Stewart Parker, Black Botanist and Collector. Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. Astra Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-1-662-68019-9. $18.99. Unpaged. Grades 2-6.

From “brainy boy” in Spokane, Washington, to world-renown mycologist* at Howard University, Charles Stewart Parker led a full and successful life as a botanist, professor, and researcher. Born in 1882, Parker founded an African-American newspaper, then enlisted to serve as a lieutenant in the 366 Infantry of Black soldiers during World War I. As a leader, he protested the discrimination his men faced in the military. After his return from service, he could not afford to buy a farm so he became a consulting horticulturist, teaching others how to farm, plant, and garden, while achieving a botany degree from the State College of Washington. His interest in exploring and cataloging plants brought him from the Pacific Northwest to the East Coast. From his base at Howard University, he traveled to the American South collecting samples. His time at Penn State with mushroom authority, Lee Oras Overholts, though, revealed his expertise: fungi. He was the first botanist to write a clear, organized description of hypholoma. Through Parker’s eyes, young readers not only learn the parts of a mushroom, but also have the fungi elevated to something special. Theodore Taylor III’s clear, colorful illustrations engage the viewer of this picture book in varied frames: close-ups of plants, full-page spreads, or idyllic nature scenes. Esteemed in his field, Parker may be little known to the general public. In only 32 pages complemented by pictures, author Janice N. Harrington creates a well-rounded, informative biography of a scholar who can inspire many budding scientists. Includes glossary, timeline, spotlight of other African-American botanists and mycologists, and extensive bibliography.

*someone who works with fungi, like mushrooms 

THOUGHTS: A quick search on the internet still yields little on Charles Stewart Parker (Charles S. Parker), so this biography and the loads of information crammed into it (without being overwhelming) is welcome. Students interested in STEM, girls and African American students interested in science, anyone looking for scientists with different areas of expertise will use this book. The back matter is valuable as well and allows for the wider grade range. Parker’s life teaches more than mushrooms. He showed scholarship, determination, persistence, and passion, and he never gave up being a student. The importance of his studies at Penn State is a high point.


Elem. – Seasons: Summer Shine! (Series NF)

Murray, Julie. Seasons: Summer Shine! Abdo Kids, 2022. $21.95 ea. $131.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades K-2.

Summer Adventures. 978-1-098-20930-8.
Summer Animals
. 978-1-098-20931-5.
Summer Food. 978-1-098-20932-2.
Summer Holidays. 978-1-098-20933-9.
Summer Plants. 978-2-098-20934-6.
Summer Weather. 978-2-098-20935-3.

Summer Adventures is an early nonfiction book aimed at young readers. Bright photographs and bold primary colors are used throughout the book. Each two-page spread depicts a primary student enjoying a popular summer activity, including the beach, playgrounds, family barbecues, fishing, camping, and swimming and boating. Text is very simple, with only one sentence per page. Table of Contents, Index, Glossary, and suggestions for further summer adventures all are included in this nonfiction selection leveled for Kindergarten readers. A QR code at the end of the book enables teachers or parents to access free worksheets, coloring sheets, games, and more.

THOUGHTS: An excellent introduction to nonfiction text features. Photos depict diverse representations of children and families. Perfect for an early primary or preschool library or nonfiction section. Activities and lesson plans accessed through the QR code are developmentally appropriate and are a nice addition for easy lesson planning.

525.5 Natural Sciences and Mathematics         Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem. – A Seed Grows

Portis, Antoinette. A Seed Grows. Neal Porter Books. 978-0-8234-4892-0. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

This minimalist circle story recounts the life cycle of a sunflower for the youngest scientists. The title page features a bird with a sunflower seed in its beak. The seed falls onto the soil where the sun shines on it, and the rain waters it. It sprouts, breaks through the soil, and continues growing and growing, forming a bud, then a flower. The flower eventually fills with seeds which drop to the ground where a flock of birds finds them, completing the circle. Backmatter includes information about the parts of a seed, the parts of a sunflower plant, and additional information about what seeds need to sprout and thrive. Most double-page spreads feature a few words of text on the left side and a vibrant full-bleed illustration on the opposite page. The bright, oversize illustrations were created using different printmaking techniques, and their uncluttered simplicity reflects the beauty of the seed’s change and growth.

THOUGHTS: This will be a useful addition to primary grade units about flowers and plant life cycles. The beautiful illustrations will grab readers’ attention, and the sparse text will help emergent readers build confidence and reading fluency.

575.6 Plants          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

YA – This Wicked Fate

Bayron, Kaylnn. This Wicked Fate. Bloomsbury, 2022. 978-1-5476-0920-8. 307 pg. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

This Wicked Fate starts right where the first book (This Poison Heart) ends, with Briseis trying to find a way to rescue her mother. However, that means that Briseis needs to put together the pieces of the Absyrtus Heart plant, which is deadly. Throughout this book, Briseis gets to know her relatives that she has never really met while there are others who want the heart. What will Briseis do in order to save her mother, as well as those she loves? Will she be able to rescue her mother, or is this a mission that is doomed to fail no matter what?

THOUGHTS: This was a great ending to this duology!! The way the author delves into the family dynamic as well as the interpersonal relationships between these characters is done spectacularly. The character arcs are very well done, and everything feels very natural. This duology would be great for fans of mythology or fans of a fantasy series. 

Fantasy            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy 

Elem. – Before We Stood Tall

Kulekjian, Jessica. Before We Stood Tall. Kids Can, 2021. 978-1-525-30324-1. Unpaged. 19.99. Grades K-3.

Youngsters are sure to gravitate to this lovely picture book that presents a new spin on how a tree grows. Rather than show how an acorn becomes a mighty tree, Kulekjian reverses the process. Slowly, her impactful prose, paired with soft watercolor art by Madeline Kloepper, traces the mighty trees in the forest back to seeds in the earth. But the story doesn’t end there. Kulekjian explains mysteries of the earth itself and the root structure of trees and plants. What child won’t be delighted to learn plants are communicating underground? The earth-toned artwork comes alive below ground, with a plethora of creatures, mammal and insect, inhabiting what a child might consider boring dirt. Bones, rocks, and fossils fill the ground, along with roots and plant detritus, inviting images a young reader will need to explore thoroughly. While the text is sparse, each word is obviously chosen with care, conveying scientific concepts in beautiful, child-friendly terms.

THOUGHTS: The book is lovely in both word and images and will be a welcome addition to any picture book collection.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Lala’s Words

Zhang, Gracey. Lala’s Words. Orchard Books, 2021. 978-1-338-64823-2. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Lala is a little girl who loves to be outside especially when she can’t contain her energy. She loves skipping down the block of her neighborhood, an urban street of homes and shops. When Lala leaves her house, she runs to “a patch of dirt and concrete [with] short green weeds and leaves. A place of Lala’s own.” There she whispers sweet words to each of the plants in her garden, and she brings them water on hot days. Fed up with Lala being covered in dirt and not still and quiet, Lala’s mother refuses to let her “jibber-jabber in the dirt and grass” on the hottest day of summer. Sadly, Lala watches as all the people of her neighborhood pass by her window as she whispers to her garden’s plant friends. Overnight, something amazing happens, and Lala’s mother realizes just how special Lala is. Beautiful black and white ink and gouache illustrations with bursts of yellow and green perfectly capture Lala’s joy, kindness, and love.

THOUGHTS: Readers will enjoy this heartfelt story of kindness. Perfect for a morning meeting or a counseling lesson on using kind words, this title is sure to be a hit. 

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Grow

Macken, JoAnn Early. Grow. Boyds Mill Press, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-635-92308-7. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

This charming picture book is all about the wonders of growing up. The story is told in a series of “If you were a…” statements, comparing a child’s development to the life cycles of animals and plants. As a mother and child watch falling acorns, the narrator relates an oak tree growing from a tiny acorn to a small child spreading her roots in the world. Later, a grandfather and his grandsons spot a deer with her fawns running through the woods. Just as a fawn’s first shaky steps develop into a sprint, the wobbly gait of a toddler becomes a confident stride. The delightful illustrations by Coleman are rendered digitally and are the winning elements of the book. For each animal or plant comparison, the child’s clothes take on that appearance. A girl is pictured wearing a green jumper with an orange shirt, mimicking the green shell and orange spots of a turtle, and the acorn watching child wears a beanie that resembles the nut’s cap. On the title page, there is an oak sapling, and on the last page, it has grown into a large tree.

THOUGHTS: While the comparisons in the text are a bit weak at times, the book’s drawings bring them to life. Children will enjoy listening to the story and poring over the details in the pictures. A supplemental purchase.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member