Tag: gardening with kids (Page 1 of 5)

#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.

Giveaway Contest: Gardening Lab for Kids

We have a lot of news today:

The good news this week is that the weather in many areas has begun to warm up. With the arrival of spring,  you may be thinking of gardening with children. The better news is Quarry Books has published Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden (Hands-On Family) by Renata Fossen Brown this month and it is just the book to have on hand to add enjoyment and depth to a child’s gardening experience. The best news is that you have a chance to win a copy through our giveaway contest (see below)!

Before going any further, it is important to note that although the term “experiments” in the subtitle might suggest scientific trials or investigations, for this book “experiment” is actually used more in the sense of “to try something new.”  Gardening Lab for Kids is a lovely collection of hands-on activities for children to do for every week of the year, from designing a garden and making seed tape, to planting a garden in a shoe, growing a pizza garden, and constructing a wind chime. In addition, children will certainly learn some science as they explore parts of plants, investigate soils, try out composting, and learn about watering.

Renata Fossen Brown is Vice President of Education at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and her experience and resources show in the quality of the book. Each “Lab” is accompanied by color photographs of children doing the activity, a list of materials, step-by-step procedures written for children, and suggestions for extensions (“Dig Deeper!”) Each activity is designed so that it could stand alone or be used as a series. Many of the activities can be done with limited space and use readily-available materials.

Gardening is a wonderful hobby for children because, as Brown writes, it gets them active and outdoors. It has many benefits, such as it helps children connect with their food, learn about nature, and explore their creativity. Gardening is an especially good project for kinesthetic learners, who always reap extra rewards from hands-on activities. Brown also alludes to studies that have shown that getting outdoors helps children develop focus.

With all the benefits, are you ready to “try something new” and do some gardening?  Gardening Lab for Kids has the ideas and instructions to get started today!

leaf-borderGiveaway Contest

Would you like to try to win a copy of Gardening Lab for Kids? Simply leave a comment on this blog post with a valid e-mail address (U.S. mailing addresses only, please) by May 5, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. A single winner will be selected at random from the comments and notified via e-mail. The giveaway contest is now closed.


Age Range: 5 – 12 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 6
Series: Hands-On Family
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Quarry Books (April 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1592539041
ISBN-13: 978-1592539048

For more ideas, visit our Gardening/Science Activities for Kids Pinterest board and our recent posts for Children’s Garden Week.


Disclosures: This book was provided for review by the publisher. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

If you are interested in children’s nonfiction, you might want to visit the Nonfiction Monday blog and see what other new books bloggers have found.


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