The Wild World of Plants

I’m in a gardening state of mind, and, from the great questions I get at the beautiful Plaza Library, so are lots of Kansas City kids! Each month, we can go a little bit plant-crazy on the Keyword: Kids blog. I’ll review a food-related books; share stories, recipes and tips from my backyard garden; and tell you about great events around the metro that kids will love!

It’s really and truly spring now—the trees are all leafed out, flowers are blooming like mad, and the farmers’ markets are opening all over the metro! Besides getting great early produce and flowers, you can also get what probably pops into your mind when you hear the word “garden.” That’s right, I’m talking about the plants! For this month’s little patch of garden on the Keyword:Kids blog, I would like to tell you about some really cool books about plants that I found at the Library.

For the youngest Kansas Citians, Lois Ehlert wrote a great book called Growing Vegetable Soup. A family’s gardening adventure is told in simple words and bright, lively pictures that will make even your littlest brothers and sisters want to help you raise yummy vegetables! Besides telling a happy story about a family’s hard work to grow their own vegetable soup, Ehlert’s book also offers good basic gardening advice and even a recipe for soup like that grown in the book!

A great book for toddlers and preschoolers who have green thumbs (or would like to!) is The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall. Broccoli, lettuce, and tomatoes aren’t the only things that you can grow, you know. Fruit grows on trees that you can have in your own yard, even if it’s teeny tiny! In this book, two sisters tell the story of a year in their beloved apple tree’s life. From bare brown branches in winter to the tasty apple pie in fall, the cool collages and short blocks of text make this a great pick to read by yourself or with someone special. The book ends with a short note on how bees help apples grow, as well as instructions on how to make your very own apple pie!

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long is a non-fiction, fact-filled book that examines the tiny packets that open up into plants: the seeds. Beautiful watercolors illustrate everything you’ve ever wondered about seeds, and probably an awful lot you’d not even thought to wonder yet. Types of seeds, their structures, their histories, and produce are all waiting to be discovered by you in A Seed is Sleepy. Younger readers may want to read this one together with a more experience reader, but older elementary aged kids will want to curl up with this one for hours.

K-3rd graders will also love The Giant Carrot. This story is loving adapted from an ancient Russian folktale by author Jan Peck; she decided to change the Russian tale’s turnip to her preferred tasty carrot! This kind of story is called a “chain formula” because it follows the links from one character to the next to tell the story; the words and pictures work together to include many people without the story getting confusing. Each person wants carrots to grow in Papa Joe and Mama Bess’ garden for their own reasons and each person does a little something to help the seeds grow well. Everyone ends up coming together to try to harvest the biggest carrot that any of them have ever seen—will their teamwork be enough to get it out of the ground, or will they have to sit by and watch the massive root keep growing forever? After you find out the answer to that question, make Little Isabelle’s Carrot Puddin’ from the recipe on the book’s last page!

Kids in 4th grade and up will enjoy two non-fiction books chock full of cool plant facts and amazing plant pictures. Have you ever wondered why some flowers are white, some are yellow, some are red, and some are all mixed up? Find the answers to all of your pigment questions in Roses Red, Violets Blue: Why Flowers Have Colors by Sylvia A. Johnson. Roses didn’t develop their gorgeous reds, pinks, and corals just for our seeing pleasure, nor did daisies decide one day to be yellow, white, or red just because they wanted to look pretty. So why, then, do some plants put so much effort and energy into looking good while others make lots of leaves, instead? Grab Roses Red, Violets Blue today and find out!

Finally, older kids will appreciate the in-depth explanations about everything that has to do with plants in Inside Guides: Incredible Plants by Barbara Taylor, but people of all ages will be mesmerized by the amazing diagrams, models, and drawings that fill every page. This book describes all the different kinds of plants that there are, such as fungi and cacti, and examines related topics like plant defense, pollination methods, and how plants came to be in the first place. Check out this book at your favorite Kansas City Public Library branch today and in no time you’ll be talking like a true botanist: a real plant pro!

While you patiently weed and thin your garden beds and pots, I hope that you’ll take some time to visit the library to learn a little more about our wonderful plant friends. These aren’t the only great books we have on gardening, of course, ask your favorite librarian for help finding some more at your local library branch!

Next month, I’ll tell you about some exciting books I found on a big threat and a big benefit to plants everywhere: the pests that give gardeners headaches and heartbreaks and the beneficial bugs that help make things grow strong! Until then, see you at the Library!

by Melissa Horak-Hern, Plaza Kid Corner Associate