If You Plant a Seed

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 4.19.34 PMBy Kadir Nelson. Balzer & Bray, 2015. 32 pages. $18.99/hardcover; $9.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 4–8.

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Kadir Nelson takes us into the vegetable garden for this enchanting, simple lesson in the benefits of generosity. Bunny and Mouse are the gardeners here, planting seeds and discovering how, with love and care, they blossom and flourish to yield a healthy harvest. And then come the others: hungry birds looking for a share in the abundance. What to do?

Bunny and Mouse quickly find out that hoarding their wealth only leads to a heap of trouble. When everyone emerges with ruffled and stained feathers and fur from the fracas that ensues, the gardeners rethink their actions and come up with a very different solution and outcome.

Not only does their generosity bring peace, it also brings an increased harvest as their former predators become contributors, and all come away happy and well-fed in a beautiful environment.

The lesson is taught simply, with the author directly addressing the reader. Bunny and Mouse (never actually named) are given just enough personality for a child to relate to them—they plant and mark and read to their seedlings, get drenched in the rain, and wiggle with pleasure by their young crops—without being anthropomorphized with conversation or clothing. The paintings carry the drama of the story.

I would look to this book as a springtime gift for a pre-reading child, and follow up with quality time in the garden to bring the lesson home, especially if the parents are practicing permaculture or integrative pest management. It’s a rich life lesson in the making.

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