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gardenSeptember Discussion – Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner; illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

This beautifully illustrated picture book is a delightful example of humans and nature working together to create something beautiful.  We felt that this would be a wonderful addition to classes for science.  As many libraries/schools have small gardening plots it was thought that it would provide very useful background information.

Whilst clearly a North American text, with climatic conditions and animals different from those experienced in Queensland, it was felt that the concepts were still very transferable.  It was noted that students who had read the book were quick to note that the skunk did not belong in an Australian landscape.

The young girl is eager to learn to garden but her grandmother explains to her that there is much that needs to be done to prepare for gardening.  This is a good lesson to learn that much of what happens in life happens below the surface and that preparation is key to success.  We thought of the motto that could be applied here, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – something many aspiring gardeners have found out to their dismay.

The book recounts the passage of time and shows all the activity both above and below the soil across the seasons.  The work of the bugs and insects below is as essential as the humans work above ground.  The illustrations are rich and complex and the vocabulary extensive:

Up in the garden, carrot plants sprout. Pea blossoms bloom. Wasps are on the prowl, and honeybees visit, legs loaded with pollen.

An author’s note in the back, a further reading list and an index which lists all the animals that are mentioned are particularly valuable.  We thought this would be a wonderful resource for any library.