Inch By Inch, Row By Row: Some Books About Gardening

I am a city girl by nature and have come late to gardening, but this year I have finally gotten a patch of ground weeded, have obtained some good soil for it, and just two days ago, with my daughter's sporadic help, planted my first crop of peas and lettuce, two vegetables that I have been assured are EASY to grow. I sure hope so.

Before this spring, my gardening experience was primarily literary. The first garden-related thing I bought-- last year, even--was a packet of carrot seeds. I had a strong conviction that carrots were a guaranteed, rewarding thing to grow in a garden. I think I was strongly influenced by The Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson's classic tale of a little boy whose perseverence in tending to his single carrot-seed garden pays off with a gargantuan carrot that astonishes his heretofore-doubting family. But then a friend told me that carrots can be tough to grow in this climate, and since my primary goal this year is to start a garden that actually bears produce so as to encourage myself to continue, I thought I'd wait, at least until after the frost date.

So, peas and lettuce it was. We went out and planted them on Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday morning, despite knowing intellectually that the seeds will take a couple of weeks to sprout, I woke up wondering if they might have come up yet. And if not: why not? And when?? Just like Toad in "The Garden," (which can be found in the book Frog and Toad Together,) I wanted to run out to the garden and command them: "Now seeds, start growing!"

So many gardening books--like Paul Fleischman's Seedfolks, or that classic of all gardening novels, The Secret Garden--are about how working the earth and making things grow transform the gardener and even foster community. Gardening teaches, among other things, patience. Maybe, with time, my I'll become master gardeners, like the young girl who transforms her grumpy uncle's rooftop in Sarah Stewart and David Small's wonderful The Gardener, But for now, I'm just a beginner.

What I hope for this year is that my family will feel some connection with the earth and with nature, and maybe get to eat some peas and lettuce that we grew ourselves. Or possibly even some carrots-- just regular-sized would be fine.

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Earth Day Fun: Pennies for the Planet

Looking for a great way to help the planet?

There is also an online game for Earth Day from the National Audubon Society. It is called the Pennies for the Planet Game and it is part of the Together Green program. Kids can learn how even small actions can make their yard more wildlife-friendly. It is an engaging way to learn about some Audubon conservation projects helping panthers, plovers and turtles.
Check it out at:

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Top! 100! Children's! Novels!

Where have I been? Among other things, I've been submerged in delicious suspense while following the Top 100 Children's Novels poll at Fuse #8, where Betsy Bird has been slowly, slooooly, revealing the winners from #100 to #1. Here's the complete list of the top 100 novels, with links to each post. If you have the time, I'd encourage you to click through to the individual posts for each book-- or, at least, just to your favorites. Betsy assembled a delicious assortment of quotes, background information, video links to movie versions, and even huge arrays of cover images (including foreign covers). Here's a sample: #45 through 41 on the list, a range which includes The Golden Compass, Ramona the Pest, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. If you're wondering what could have possibly gotten more votes than books like these three, click over and read on!

Then, just as I was recovering from the list, I saw this game at MotherReader's site: Which of the top 100 children's novels have you read? I've bolded the ones I read, and, like MotherReader, asterisk'd the ones I voted for (not very many of my votes made the list, but I'm not surprised-- several of my choices were pretty obsure.)

  1. The Egypt Game — Snyder (1967)
  1. The Indian in the Cupboard — Banks (1980)
  1. Children of Green Knowe — Boston (1954)
  1. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane — DiCamillo (2006)
  1. The Witches — Dahl (1983)
  1. Pippi Longstocking — Lindgren (1950)
  1. Swallows and Amazons — Ransome (1930)
  1. Caddie Woodlawn — Brink (1935)
  1. Ella Enchanted — Levine (1997)
  1. Sideways Stories from Wayside School — Sachar (1978)
  1. Sarah, Plain and Tall — MacLachlan (1985)
  1. Ramona and Her Father — Cleary (1977)
  1. The High King — Alexander (1968) [though it was a very long time ago...]
  1. The View from Saturday — Konigsburg (1996)
  1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — Rowling (1999)
  1. On the Banks of Plum Creek — Wilder (1937)
  1. The Little White Horse — Goudge (1946)
  1. The Thief — Turner (1997)
  1. The Book of Three — Alexander (1964)
  1. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon — Lin (2009)
  1. The Graveyard Book — Gaiman (2008)
  1. All-of-a-Kind-Family — Taylor (1951)
  1. Johnny Tremain — Forbes (1943) [I think I read most of it but am shamelessly counting the whole thing]
  1. The City of Ember — DuPrau (2003)
  1. Out of the Dust — Hesse (1997)
  1. Love That Dog — Creech (2001)
  1. The Borrowers — Norton (1953)
  1. My Side of the Mountain — George (1959)
  1. My Father’s Dragon — Gannett (1948)
  1. The Bad Beginning — Snicket (1999)
  1. Betsy-Tacy — Lovelace (1940)
  1. The Mysterious Benedict Society — Stewart ( 2007)
  1. Walk Two Moons — Creech (1994)
  1. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher — Coville (1991)
  1. Henry Huggins — Cleary (1950)
  1. Ballet Shoes — Stratfeild (1936)
  1. A Long Way from Chicago — Peck (1998) [How can I not have read this? But I haven't]
  1. Gone-Away Lake — Enright (1957) [And me a big Elizabeth Enright fan. Go figure.]
  1. The Secret of the Old Clock — Keene (1959) [not sure; will leave it off]
  1. Stargirl — Spinelli (2000)
  1. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle — Avi (1990)
  1. Inkheart — Funke (2003)
  1. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase — Aiken (1962)
  1. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 — Cleary (1981)
  1. Number the Stars — Lowry (1989)
  1. The Great Gilly Hopkins — Paterson (1978)
  1. The BFG — Dahl (1982)
  1. Wind in the Willows — Grahame (1908)
  1. The Invention of Hugo Cabret — Selznick (2007)
  1. The Saturdays — Enright (1941)
  1. Island of the Blue Dolphins — O’Dell (1960) [Read the beginning but it was too sad for me]
  1. Frindle Clements (1996)
  1. The Penderwicks — Birdsall (2005)
  1. Bud, Not Buddy — Curtis (1999)
  1. Where the Red Fern Grows — Rawls (1961)
  1. The Golden Compass — Pullman (1995)
  1. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing — Blume (1972)
  1. Ramona the Pest — Cleary (1968)
  1. Little House on the Prairie — Wilder (1935)
  1. The Witch of Blackbird Pond — Speare (1958)
  1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz — Baum (1900)
  1. When You Reach Me — Stead (2009)
  1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — Rowling (2003)
  1. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry — Taylor (1976)
  1. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret — Blume (1970)
  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — Rowling (2000)
  1. The Watsons Go to Birmingham — Curtis (1995)
  1. James and the Giant Peach — Dahl (1961)
  1. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH — O’Brian (1971)
  1. Half Magic — Eager (1954)
  1. Winnie-the-Pooh — Milne (1926)
  1. The Dark Is Rising — Cooper (1973)
  1. A Little Princess — Burnett (1905)**
  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass — Carroll (1865/72)
  1. Hatchet — Paulsen (1989)
  1. Little Women — Alcott (1868/9)
  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Rowling (2007)
  1. Little House in the Big Woods — Wilder (1932)
  1. The Tale of Despereaux — DiCamillo (2003)
  1. The Lightening Thief — Riordan (2005)
  1. Tuck Everlasting — Babbitt (1975)
  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — Dahl (1964)
  1. Matilda — Dahl (1988)
  1. Maniac Magee — Spinelli (1990)
  1. Harriet the Spy — Fitzhugh (1964)**
  1. Because of Winn-Dixie — DiCamillo (2000)
  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — Rowling (1999)
  1. Bridge to Terabithia — Paterson (1977)
  1. The Hobbit — Tolkien (1938)
  1. The Westing Game — Raskin (1978)
  1. The Phantom Tollbooth — Juster (1961)
  1. Anne of Green Gables — Montgomery (1908)
  1. The Secret Garden — Burnett (1911)
  1. The Giver — Lowry (1993)
  1. Holes — Sachar (1998)
  1. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler — Koningsburg (1967)
  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe — Lewis (1950)
  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philsopher’s Stone — Rowling (1997)
  1. A Wrinkle in Time — L’Engle (1962)
  1. Charlotte’s Web — White (1952) looks like I've read 85 of the top 100. Not too shabby. But I'm embarrassed at the ones I haven't read-- The BFG! The Mysterious Benedict Society! The Wind in the Willows, for crying out loud!

Must get cracking. How about you?


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