Picture Books that Teach Kids About Gardening, Nature, and Food

(Guest post from Becky Flansburg)

Many of us, thanks to the last few wild years, are embracing a slower, simpler, and nature-based lifestyle these days.

I grew up on a hobby farm with a ton of different animals and several massive gardens. My mom worked two jobs yet still found the time to cook, garden, sew, can, and raise animals. It took me until my early 50\’s to truly understand what a gift my growing-up years were. To have that knowledge of sustainable living…before that term was even \”a thing\”…was something that never occurred to me until recently.

And it really, really has hit home how valuable that knowledge was/is thanks to the global, emotional, financial, health, and civil chaos of the last few years.

It has also reinforced the importance of teaching the next generation to get their hands into Mother Earth and learn about where their food comes from. Nature, books, and kids are a winning combination and the following booklist combines all three! Enjoy!

Books that Teach Kids About Gardening, Nature, and Food

What\’s Cooking in Flowerville? Recipes from Garden, Balcony, or Window Box by Felicita Sala (Ages 5-9)

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Young cooks will learn about the edible gifts that each season brings in this lush double-page spreads featuring Sala\’s gorgeous watercolor illustrations, we visit the yards, balconies, and rooftops where the citizens of Flowerville grow their vegetables. Each month features a different member of the town, and a delicious recipe inspired by a fruit or vegetable.

From spring\’s asparagus and peas and summer\’s cherries, cucumbers and peppers to autumn\’s pears and squash and winter\’s potatoes and citrus—twelve healthy ingredients are harvested in one of the townspeople\’s gardens and then used to make an easy, delicious dish. As the year comes to a close, the town gathers for a giant picnic. The recipes, which include savory and sweet pies, soups, sauces, pancakes and croquettes, embrace a wide array of cultures, and feature fresh flavors and easy-to-source ingredients. Kids will learn not only how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into meals, but also how they grow and when they ripen. The book also includes charmingly illustrated tips and tools for growing your own food. A celebration of gardening, cooking, and community, this unique and beautiful cookbook is certain to become a perennial favorite in family kitchens.

Fantastic Fruits by Olaf Hajek(Ages 6-9)

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This book a beautiful exploration of everyone\’s favorite fresh food, Olaf Hajek\’s brilliantly colored and uniquely stylized paintings are accompanied by informative texts that will enthrall readers of all ages.

As in his previous books, Flower Power and Veggie Power, Hajek\’s whimsical, imaginative paintings—inspired by a variety of artistic traditions—situate each fruit in a fascinating cultural context. Each \”portrait\” features delightful pictorial clues about how the fruits are grown and consumed. Opposite the illustrations, Annette Roeder\’s engaging texts offer illuminating and often surprising facts from throughout history and contemporary life. As mouthwatering as a summer peach, and as surprising as a pomegranate\’s seeds, this book serves up page after page of delicious, nutritious, but most of all fun portions of fruity knowledge from all over the world.

The Wild Garden by Cynthia Cliff (Ages 5-9)

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This delightful book for kids is filled with charmingly rustic illustrations of people, plants and animals. This story about community and biodiversity introduces children to the variety of ways things can grow and flourish in nature.

In the village of Mirren, a tidy community garden is carefully organized and tended by the townspeople. On the other side of the garden wall is a wild patch of land— a jumble of trees, a pond, and tall grassy places. While the garden is cared for in different ways throughout the seasons, Jilly and her grandfather like to visit the wild place, foraging for mushrooms, asparagus, and nuts, and watching the insects, birds and other animals. When the townspeople decide they need a bigger garden, they make plans to expand beyond the wall into the wild place. Worried about what will happen to their special piece of nature, Jilly and her grandfather come up with a plan, inviting the townspeople to discover a new kind of gardening. Their plan works and the wild place and the community garden merge harmoniously; the bees pollinate the crops, berry bushes take over a garden corner, pumpkins grow along the pond, and delicious herbs appear among the ferns. Cynthia Cliff\’s lovingly detailed illustrations reveal the joys of every kind of garden, while her story offers endless opportunities to talk about healthy eating, nature, ecological gardening, and friendship.

A Year in the Secret Garden

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As parents, we want/need quality books with extension activities to help our young ones unplug and create memories. Pulling books from shelves, and stories from pages is also an important act that will the habit of being life-long readers. Quality books with companion book extension activities are not only working to create special family time, but it also allows kids to solve the world’s problems without major consequences. A Year in the Secret Garden is just such a book.

This delightful children’s book is co-written by Marilyn Scott-Waters and Valarie Budyar and it offers original month-by-month activities that allow readers to delve deeper into the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden.

A Year in the Secret Garden\

Within the 120 pages (with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities)families will find many activities inspired by The Secret Garden that encourage them to step away from technology and enjoy getting hands and feet into the black earth of a family garden. This book will make a great gift and be the catalyst of many hours of family growth, learning, and FUN!

The mystery and magic of planting a seed and watching it grow is a very exciting experience indeed. Now imagine how exciting and magical it would be to put those seeds into the fiber of a piece of paper and watch your secret garden grow from there.

In A Year in the Secret Garden, April chapter, readers can the unique activity of making seed paper. My co-author, the lovely Marilyn Scott-Waters, has also designed beautiful secret garden seed packets to download. If your little gardeners would like to add some flair to their garden seeds, the black-n-while download can be found here.

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Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious (Food Heroes Series)

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Chef Alice Waters has always been friends with food.
The search for good food led Alice Waters to France, and then back home to Berkeley, California, where she started Chez Panisse restaurant and the Edible Schoolyard. For Alice, a delicious meal does not start in the kitchen, but in the fields with good soil and caring farmers.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin, author of the Caldecott winner, Snowflake Bentley, tells how one child\’s search for delicious led to a dream for all children to share the joy of tasty food—the same joy we get from a beautiful song, or a starry sky. Jacqueline Briggs Martin, author of the Caldecott winner, Snowflake Bentley, tells how one child\’s search for delicious led to a dream for all children to share the joy of tasty food—the same joy we get from a beautiful song, or a starry sky. See Jacqueline Briggs Martin’s other “Food Heroes” books: Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table and Chef Roy Choi and The Street Food Remix.

Happy Gardening!

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