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

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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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MORNING GIRL

Like the quiet lap of waves on the sand, the alternating introspections of two Bahamian island children in 1492. Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are very different: she loves the hush of pre-dawn while he revels in night skies, noise, wind. In many ways they are antagonists, each too young and subjective to understand the other's perspective—in contrast to their mother's appreciation for her brother. In the course of these taut chapters concerning such pivotal events as their mother's losing a child, the arrival of a hurricane, or Star Boy's earning the right to his adult name, they grow closer. In the last, Morning Girl greets— with cordial innocence—a boat full of visitors, unaware that her beautifully balanced and textured life is about to be catalogued as ``very poor in everything,'' her island conquered by Europeans. This paradise is so intensely and believably imagined that the epilogue, quoted from Columbus's diary, sickens with its ominous significance. Subtly, Dorris draws parallels between the timeless chafings of sibs set on changing each other's temperaments and the intrusions of states questing new territory. Saddening, compelling—a novel to be cherished for its compassion and humanity. (Fiction. 8+)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1992

ISBN: 1-56282-284-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

RALPH TELLS A STORY

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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