Thursday, June 4, 2015

Learning from Picture Books: Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

With all the gardening I've been doing lately, this one seemed appropriate! I borrowed it from my local public library.

Here’s the summary from Amazon:

In this exuberant and lyrical follow-up to the award-winning Over and Under the Snow, discover the wonders that lie hidden between stalks, under the shade of leaves . . . and down in the dirt. Explore the hidden world and many lives of a garden through the course of a year! Up in the garden, the world is full of green—leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt exists a busy world—earthworms dig, snakes hunt, skunks burrow—populated by all the animals that make a garden their home.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal was published by Chronicle Books in 2015.

My thoughts as a writer:

I really admired the rhythm of the opening line: “Up in the garden, I stand and plan—my hands full of seeds and my head full of dreams.” The language and imagery makes this book appealing. The pattern of above ground and then below ground keeps the story moving forward.

I liked how the illustrator used the full page, going right past the edges, seeming to show that the images are only a snapshot of a much larger world, both below and above.  

My thoughts as a teacher:

This book will capture the interest of young primary students who are curious about the world around and below them. I liked how underground and above ground life is given equal time and importance. The back matter provides lots of extra material for discussion or to explore with interested students.

Themes: gardening, nature, caring about the environment, life cycles

Ages: 4 – 8

Grades: K - 3

Follow-Up Activities:

- talk about the seasons that are shown on different pages of the book
- create one of the creatures from the story using art materials and write a fact about it
-compare life above with life below – how is it different? how is it the same?
- plant bean or sunflower seeds in a clear cup and make observations about what happens above and below


For another take on this book and more activities, visit Ms. Meghan Makes.

If you're looking for more great picture books to read to your class or to investigate as a writer, consider checking out the list of Perfect Picture Books, put together by author Susanna Leonard Hill.

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