Now unless you have been moonlighting as Don Burke (my shameful little dream) a woman doesn’t often to get to write about plants; more specifically, young children’s books with a planty theme.
Oh yes, you may have gazed upon plants, foraged among them, tip toed, cavorted or crushed them like the brute you are beneath your feet but how often does one get to write about them? Their majesty, their allure, their chlorophyll delight. DON’T get me started on chlorophyll but it’s enough to say that a plant is an unending field of succulent wonder. DID YOU KNOW?-
- 90 percent of the foods humans eat come from just 30 plants.
- 70,000 plant species are utilised for medicine.
- 68 percent of plants are in danger of going extinct.
I didn’t even have to look these facts up!! I just carry them around in my head on the off chance I get to write a blog about plant themed books or if I manage to trap some desperate single guy at a party who is strategically standing next to a pteridophyte. This is of course the scientific name to describe all seedless, vascular plants, making it synonymous with ferns and fern allies. I consider myself a staunch fern ally, always have, and woe betide anyone who stands against us.
Of course, for the humble plant the seed is the beginning not discounting those minx like spores that float on the wind and practice their devilish asexual reproduction. Ruth Brown’s Ten Seeds is a lovely counting book that allows a young reader to see nature and its relationship with other living things. Ten seeds are planted but a bold ant, a greedy pidgeon, a seeking mouse and the many other pillagers in the garden quickly reduce the ten seeds to one. Children will not only see how numbers are reduced when one is taken away but also the symbiotic partnership between things that grow and things that must survive. The print is bold and easy to read and the story line is simplistic yet poignant as the one, lone seed bursts in life; a vibrant, fiery sunflower. The colours lend themselves to the simplistic style of the book. They are earthy and realistic and allow a child to feel as if they have been digging in the garden.
Danny Parker’s gorgeous book Tree made me a teensy bit weepy when I read it. Tree is all alone when his forest is decimated around him until the day he is merely a single tree in a field of grey; sharp edged buildings, choking smoke and crowding roof tops. Tree stands like a lone sentinel, his friends destroyed by progress and invention. The illustrations have a watercolour look about them, softly drawn and designed. The colours are vibrant but used sparingly; the blue of the sky takes up the whole page as does the verdant green of the city park. Nature is the central theme here with Tree its principle character. It is only when new life appears, in the form of a small plant who springs up unexpectedly next to the sorrowful Tree that the reader begins to understand that nature and its life cycle are always stronger then human destruction.
Dandelion, written by Galvin Scott Davis is what would happen if Tim Burton decided to sit down and write a children’s book. It’s rather dark and gothic, mist creeping over buildings and shadowy outlines of Victorian mansions. Benjamin is our hero and he is a small, slight boy who attends The School For The Misguided. Here, bullies roam the halls and hope is locked away to be forgotten and barely missed.Benjamin makes a wish on a dandelion and that is for all his fears to fly away with the fairy like spores (I told you those spores were saucy). It is with the mighty Dandelion that he finds his voice and begins to believe that he can fight back and roar. The illustrations in this book are somewhat eerie with only the dandelions providing a glow of colour on sepia tinted pages. It is a Junior Kindergarten but I would probably recommend it for the older reader as the subject matter is uplifting yet presented in a dark tone. I enjoyed it but I’m a Tim Burton fan and like a bit of disturbance in my psyche. (Not being four years old helps as well).
I recently attended a Storytime enrichment workshop where they extolled to us the freedom of rewriting existing songs and give it our own personal twist. Never say I won’t accept a challenge:
I’m a little teapot
Short and stout
Here is my handle
Here is my spout.
When I get all steamed up
Hear me shout
“Tip me over
and pour me out!’.
I’m a little planty
Stem and shoots
Here are my bright leaves
Here are my roots
When I see those clippers
Here me shout
Let me grow tall
Don’t rip me out.
Plants of course lend themselves to craft and I as just happen to have an amazing cloth flower just waiting to be exploited, so here is my blossom offering:
- a large piece of cardboard
- 4 pieces of different coloured felt
- a strong needle and thread
- a large button
- Trace and cut out three flower templates and a round circle for the centre – Large, middle sized and small flowers.
- Place each of the three templates on the different coloured felt-outline.
- Cut out the outlines
- Place the three outlines on top of each other with the circle on top.
- Position the button in the centre of the circle and sew the thread through all three flowers.
I have graciously introduced you to the wondrous world of plant based children’s literature. You must of course go forth and seek other planty books. Go forth with confidence; throw around such words as Hypericum calycinum, Lilium candidum and Tulipa agenensis subsp. boissieri. I often interject them into everyday conversation, an example being ‘get your hands off my Hypericum calycinum’ or ‘that’s a mighty fine Tulipa agenensis you have there’. If you are as dedicated as I am check out the library catalogue and get plant book trekking.