A productive, if overlong, mix of storytelling and gardening tips.

Show Me The Green!

From the Wild Tales & Garden Thrills series , Vol. 1

Venetta’s debut children’s book conveys the thrill of growing one’s own food.

Lexi Williams and her brother Jason lack their mother’s passion for gardening until they find out about a kids’ contest. Suddenly, they both want to grow potatoes, carrots, and broccoli in order to win a prize of two tickets to the fall festival and $100. Lexi dreams of taking her best friend, Amy Atkins, to the festival, while Jason longs to spend the cash prize on new soccer shoes. The suspense builds as Lexi, Jason, and their mother plant tiny seeds, ward off caterpillars that threaten to devour their vegetables, and try to train the family’s youngest child, Timmy, to pull up weeds. Venetta credibly captures the children’s voices; for example, Lexi keeps a list of the many ways in which siblings are annoying. “Reason number seven hundred and thirty-two not to like brothers: They’re downers,” she thinks, after Jason frets that their vegetables are too small. Parents will recognize themselves, too: when Jason’s mother tells him to be careful with kitchen cutlery, Venetta writes, “Jason doubted the knife his mom used to spread peanut butter on his sandwiches was going to cut off his finger, but nodded anyway.” The book is also a worthy guide for parents and caregivers aiming to cultivate children’s interest in gardening. The author extols the virtues of worm feces as plant food, touts peppermint to deter ants, and points out that worker bees are female. Still, readers may find it difficult to sustain their interest for the book’s 260 pages, which include recipes and gardening lessons; there’s just enough suspense to make readers want to read to the end, but Venetta probably could have achieved her goals in two-thirds of the space. Some of the dialogue is mundane, and the book repeats points as it alternates between the narrative and the children’s journal entries. The book is also slightly prone to gender stereotypes; for instance, the girls make corn-cob dolls while Jason builds a box for a beehive with his father. However, Motz’s (What Shall We Dream, 2016, etc.) vivid color illustrations re-create both the contemplative and exhilarating feelings of being in a garden. They convey the kids’ expressions of wonderment and further the author’s goal of interesting children in gardening. 

A productive, if overlong, mix of storytelling and gardening tips.

Pub Date: July 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9911182-9-8

Page Count: 258

Publisher: BloominThyme Press

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2016

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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