Tag: Gardening With Children (Page 1 of 4)

#Nonfiction Monday #kidlit: Becoming Beatrix and Theme Gardens

Our final book in the gardening series is the middle grade biography Becoming Beatrix: The Life of Beatrix Potter and the World of Peter Rabbit by Amy M. O’Quinn.

On September 4, 1893, a 27-year-old woman with thick brown hair and bright blue eyes penned a letter to a friend’s sick child. To cheer him up, she wrote a story and decorated it with pen and ink drawings of a family of rabbits. It was not unusual for her to do this; she was always writing letters to children that contained stories and drawings. What was special about this particular letter was several years later she would turn the story into her first book for children, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter went on to write more than 20 books. Many are still available and popular today, even though they were written over 100 years ago.

Author Amy M. O’Quinn reveals Beatrix Potter’s life from her early childhood in a privileged but highly-restricted household, to her later years as a farmer and conservationist. The journey of this beloved children’s book author and illustrator is fascinating, full of hardships and disappointments as well as successes.

Beatrix continued to write even after she could no longer see to draw. Her last book, Wag-by-wall  (illustrated by J.J. Lankes), was published after her death.

Becoming Beatrix  is smaller in size, 5.5 by 8.5 inches, which echoes Beatrix Potter’s own ideas about book size.

“She’d loved Anna Barbauld’s tiny child-sized book when she was young and was inspired to create something similar that would easily fit into small hands.”

The illustrations are mostly historical photographs, giving a sense of the times and places Beatrix lived. It also has design touches that celebrate Potter’s illustrations, including rabbits in the beginning of chapters and carrots between sections.

The back matter includes “Notes” to references, a bibliography and a very useful index.

Becoming Beatrix Potter is perfect  for young fans of Beatrix Potter and those interested in women’s history. The book would be wonderful to accompany a trip to Hill Top Farm. Get lost in a copy today!

Related Activity Suggestions

Why choose this title for gardening week? In her later years Beatrix Potter purchased Hill Top Farm and spent a great deal of time working on the gardens, which were also used as background for some of her books. You can get a glimpse of them here:

You can use Beatrix Potter’s most famous book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, for inspiration and grow your very own storybook theme garden.

A storybook garden celebrates the fruits and vegetables named in a favorite book. For The Tale of Peter Rabbit, you might choose to grow the vegetables that Peter ate, such as lettuces, french beans, radishes, and parsley. Or you might want to grow all the fruits and vegetables mentioned in book.


First, find a place to grow your garden. Consider whether the area gets at least six to eight hours of sunshine per day (vegetables need a lot of sun to grow properly) and whether it is close to a reliable source of water.

If you don’t have a plot of ground, don’t give up. Can you grow vegetables in  pots or containers? Many vegetables will grow in large pots on a patio or balcony if there is enough sunlight. If not, see if your town or city has a community garden where you can rent or share a garden plot.

Write down the fruits and vegetables you want to grow.

All the edible plants mentioned in the book:

  • Lettuces
  • French beans (green or string beans in the U.S.)
  • Radishes
  • Parsley
  • Cucumber
  • Cabbages
  • Potatoes
  • Gooseberry (old-fashioned fruit that grows on a bush)
  • Public domain image by Joanna Dubaj
  • Pea
  • Onions
  • Blackcurrant (Wikipedia article)
  • Camomile (Chamomile) for tea
  • Blackberry

Check to make sure the plants will grow where you live and what varieties are available. For example, you might not be able to grow blackcurrants where it is too warm.

Design a garden to fit the space based on what you learn. You may only be able to add one or two plants of a given vegetable if you are using pots or if your space is limited. Smaller is better if this is your first garden.

Prepare the soil
Gardeners have many different methods of preparing the soil and it will vary from place to place. Usually you will need to clear weeds and debris from the area you have chosen, then dig up and turn over the soil. Vegetables grow best in soil that contains some compost. Check with local gardening resources to find out what is recommended for your climate and soil type.

When it comes to planting a garden, timing is everything. Find out when the best time to plant is for your growing zone (USDA plant hardiness map). Some vegetables, such as peas, can withstand a bit of cold weather. Others, like tomatoes, are killed by a frost. Plan accordingly.

Taking Care of Your Garden
A vegetable garden will need tending throughout the growing season. You will need to learn about weeds and pull them out so you vegetables have plenty of room to grow. Make sure to water the plants as needed.

Will you have to worry about animals eating the vegetables, like Peter Rabbit did? Will you need to keep your dog from running through? Then you might need a fence like the one from the book.

Keep Notes
Keep records of what you do. Write regularly in a gardening journal and take photographs. That way you can remember what worked, what didn’t, what varieties grew well, etc.

Let us know how it goes!

We have a previous post with more ideas for theme gardens.

See our previous review of Amy M. O’Quinn‘s book Marie Curie for Kids: Her Life and Scientific Discoveries, with 21 Activities and Experiments.


Reading age ‏ : ‎ 8 – 12 years
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Chicago Review Press (March 22, 2022)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1641604409
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1641604406

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

STEM Friday #Kidlit Begin with a Bee

Let’s continue our garden-related series of children’s books with Begin with a Bee by Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and Phyllis Root, illustrated by Claudia McGehee.

The three authors follow a single rusty-patched bumble bee queen through her life, starting with the bee overwintering in a hole under the ground.

“What else waits all winter under the ground?”

Seeds and roots of plants! By explaining that plants are also important for the bee’s survival by supplying food, young reader’s learn how different living things depend on each other.

The text proceeds in a question-and-answer format. In the spring:

Where will she nest?

It turns out that as well as overwintering, bumble bee queens also nest in the ground. We learn about how the queen feeds her offspring and how they change and grow. One two-page spread shows all the stages the larvae and pupae go through to become bumble bee workers.

You might wonder what bumble bees have to do with gardening. Throughout the summer and into fall the bumble bees gather nectar and pollen from flowers. In the process, the bees pollinate many plants so they can produce the seeds that grow into next year’s plants. Although not mentioned in the text, bumble bees pollinate some plants better than honey bees, for example clover grown for seed. They are also used in greenhouses to pollinate tomatoes.

Before we know it, it is winter again and another bumble bee queen rests in the ground, waiting for spring.

The back matter rocks. The rusty-patched bumble bee page includes facts like that it was the first bee species to go on the endangered species list. The next page lists “Ten things we can all do to help.”

Claudia McGehee’s scratchboard illustrations are incredible. The shapes, textures, and the deep black lines add so much interest to every page. There’s so much to see and explore.

Begin with a Bee is a picture book that will appeal to nature lovers of all ages.  Investigate a copy today!

Related activities:

There are so many cool things to see and do related to this book, it is hard to know where to start.

1. Watch the video by Clay Bolt, A Ghost in the Making:  Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee.

2. Think about adding fall-blooming native plants to your garden to help bees.  Some general kinds are goldenrods, asters, and joe pye weed. The Xerces Society has more information.


3. Want to learn more about bumble bees? Visit the citizen science project Bumble Bee Watch.

4. Participate in Pollinator Week activities June 20-26, 2022. You can find fun activities on their Resources page at any time. See our activity suggestions for a previous Pollinator Week.

5. Interested in trying a scratchboard art project like the illustrations in the book? Although there a commercially-prepared products, you can also make your own. See how in this video.

Want to read more? See our growing list of children’s books about pollination at Science Books for Kids.

Reading age ‏ : ‎ 4 – 9 years
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Univ Of Minnesota Press (May 25, 2021)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1517908043
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1517908041

Disclosure: This book is my personal copy. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

On Tap This Week: Butterfly Gardening With Children

Butterfly gardening has become an incredibly popular activity. It is so easy, because all it requires is a little space and a few carefully chosen plants. It can be an extremely rewarding activity to carry out with children, who can experience hands-on science at its best while learning about topics like pollination, insect life cycles, and weather. We are so excited about it that we are going to devote a week of blog posts to butterfly gardening with children.


Our links:

We made it through the week!

Growing Resource List:

Please join us and feel free to add links to your own posts, any questions, or ideas for topics about butterfly gardening with children in the comments.


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