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Ever found a glob of mud stuck under the eaves or against the window sill of your home? This black and yellow beauty is an example of the type of wasp that probably put it there. This is a mud dauber wasp (Sceliphron).

mud dauber wasp

Notice her impossibly thin "waist."

mud dauber wasp

Any idea what she is doing on this flower? No, she is not looking for nectar. Depending on the species, she was actually searching for caterpillars or grasshoppers, which she feeds to her young.

The adult wasp catches and stings the insects she uses as food. Then she carries them to her mud nest, where she stuffs them inside a mud tube she has created. She lays an egg on the processed prey. Then she carefully covers up the open end with more mud. Her offspring hatch from the egg inside the tube, and consume the insect or insects she has provided for them. After the larvae finish development and become adult wasps, they chew their way out and to fly off to make more mud nests.

Whenever I see a mud dauber wasp, I always think of the poignant poem called "The Digger Wasp" in Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman, Eric Beddows (Illustrator). This wonderful set of poems about insects is written to be read by two people, although with practice one person easily manage it. Even the most apathetic, disinterested poetry non-fan will love these poems, because they are more like songs without music. In the poem I am referring to, the digger wasp mother provisions a nest for children she will never meet. Really makes you appreciate the hard work they are doing. That's why I never destroy a mud dauber nest unless I know for certain it is empty.

In a previous post on theme gardens for children, I promised to dig up (ugh!) some relevant books. I finally got a chance to put them together.

Here are two of our favorite gardening books:

Jack's Garden by Henry Cole

This lovely book is a retelling of the nursery rhyme “This is the House that Jack Built,” using a gardening theme. It starts with tools a gardener would use, then critters you would find in the soil, all the way to a mature garden with birds and butterflies. Even though it is a picture book with few words, the illustrations are so rich it can be used with almost any age. Wonderful book!

Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson, Shmuel Thaler (Photographer)

When I lent this one to someone and never got it back, I knew I had to go out and buy another copy. This book is really one of a kind. The photographs are exceptional. (Although they do have a flower fly identified as a honey bee. This is a common mistake.) The website has good information, too.

(If you are in the mood for more books about apples and pumpkins for fall, check this list of fall-inspired books from the MissRumphiusEffect Blog.)

Books on Theme Gardening with Children by Categories

1. ABC Gardens:

Garden Books with Alphabet Themes

A Cottage Garden Alphabet by Andrea Wisnewski

Centered on a garden, the book goes through the alphabet: A is represented by an arbor; C is a cottage; I is iris; Z is zucchini. The pictures, which look like woodcuts, are actually hand-colored paper cuts and the author discusses how she makes them.

Alphabet Garden by Laura Jane Coats

A Gardener's Alphabet by Mary Azarian

Patty's Pumpkin Patch by Teri Sloat

Follow the progress of a pumpkin patch through the seasons while finding items from the alphabet. For example, in the field where the pumpkins are being planted, “a” is for ant and “b” is for beetle.

2. Rainbow Gardens:

Blue Potatoes, Orange Tomatoes by Rosalind Creasy, Ruth Heller (Illustrator)

If you are interested in planting a rainbow garden this book could be a helpful resource. Ruth Heller is definitely one of our favorite authors and illustrators.

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

This beautiful book lists many flowers of different colors.

3. Animal Gardens

Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
I already mentioned this one in the butterfly/moth book post, but it is definitely worth mentioning again here. This is a lovely book, full of good information.

Bird and Wildlife Garden Books for Adults

The Bird-Lover's Garden: Creating a Backyard Haven for Songbirds and Hummingbirds by Margaret MacAvoy, and Pat Kite

The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher: Birdfeeders and Bird Gardens by Robert Burton and Stephen Kress

The Wildlife Gardener's Guide (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide) by Janet Marinelli, Steve Buchanan (Illustrator)

4. Food Themes

Grow Your Own Pizza: Gardening Plans and Recipes for Kids by Constance Hardesty, Jeff McClung (Illustrator)

The title says it all for this fun book.

Gardening with Children by Beth Richardson

Tells how to grow a pizza garden, among other things.

5. Story Books

Linnea in Monet's Garden by Cristina Bjork, Lena Anderson (Illustrator), Joan Sandin (Translator)

If you are interested in art, artists, Monet, nature, gardening or traveling to Paris, this is the book for you. Definitely inspires me to want to grow a “Monet Garden” of my own. Beautiful, sweet, and informative, I keep our copy with the art books, but it wants to be with the nature and gardening books, too.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Tasha Tudor (Illustrator)

6. Heritage/Cultures

Corn Is Maize by Aliki

This book is part of the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series. It has a wealth of information about many aspects of corn, including how it was first domesticated by Native Americans.

For Adults:

Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians by Gilbert L. Wilson

Amazon review (edited): This book is rich with useful gardening lore, including tools and structures, and detailed descriptions of the different kinds of beans, corn, and squash that the Indians grew. Plus, there are native recipes you can try. Okay, I put this on the list so I will remember to get it ☺

7. Forts/Huts

Sunflower House (Books for Young Readers) by Eve Bunting (Author), Kathryn Hewitt (Illustrator)

A young boy plants the seeds in a large circle to grow a sunflower house. When the plants are tall enough, he invites his friends over to play in it. The text is written in rhyme.

Adult nonfiction books for gardening with children:

Gardening Wizardry for Kids by L. Patricia Kite and Yvette Santiago Banek

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy

This is the classic book on gardening with children. As you can tell from the title, Lovejoy has many fun and creative ideas about gardening.

A Child's Garden: 60 Ideas to Make Any Garden Come Alive for Children by Molly Dannenmaier

The hardcover copy I have says “Enchanting Outdoor Spaces for Children and Parents.” Enchanting is the right word. Mixed with informative text about how children play and how important it is for them to play outdoors, are photos of fairytale settings for children to play in. On pages 158-159 is a photo and list of the plants in the George Washington River farm alphabet garden.

binocular boy

Don’t you love it when you find a really great curriculum on-line for free? This weekend I found a terrific educational resource about birds. The author says it’s for elementary grades, but I think it could definitely be used at higher grades as well, with some modifications.

The guide is called “Desert Birding in Arizona, with Focus on Urban Birds" by Doris Evans, illustrated by Doris Evans and Kim Duffek. Although the book definitely emphasizes desert birds, many of the topics covered could be applied anywhere. For example, the first section answers the question, “Why study birds?” It’s relaxing, it gets us outdoors and birds can be observed year around. All those apply no matter where you are studying. The information in this curriculum guide would also be good to add to a unit on deserts.

The curriculum is available as a .pdf file. Go to the Arizona Fish and Wildlife, Focus:  WILD Arizona page, scroll all the way down to the bottom to “Additional Resources” and you’ll find a link to the Desert Birding in Arizona .pdf file. While you are visiting, you can see all the other educational materials available.

Hope you find it useful. Don’t forget to check page 35 for more information about rock doves (pigeons). 🙂