The best books for toddlers and preschoolers on how & why to grow a food garden

Who am I?

When offered a plot at the community garden, I thought it would be fun to invite other families to learn to grow food together. As a science teacher, I knew that for toddlers, digging in the dirt and growing plants for food could plant seeds for a life-long love of exploring nature, hands-on science inquiry, environmental stewardship, and joy in healthy eating. As we gardened, I noticed what questions children and their parents had, and how we found the answers together. I wrote the picture book How to Say Hello to A Worm: A First Guide to Outside to inspire more kids and their parents to get their hands dirty. 

I wrote...

How to Say Hello to a Worm: A First Guide to Outside

By Kari Percival,

Book cover of How to Say Hello to a Worm: A First Guide to Outside

What is my book about?

If you want to learn to garden, where do you start? In this picture book, How to Say Hello to a Worm: A First Guide to Outside, toddlers and preschoolers model joyful first steps. While visiting a community garden, these tiniest teachers share tips such as how to plant peas, how to build a twig trellis, how to know which strawberries are ready to pick and eat, and how to navigate an encounter with a bee. These small scientists observe cause and effect, ask questions, and explore the dirt to find their own answers. Readers will feel empowered to grow food plants and learn from each other as the growing season unfolds to a joyful harvest.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Growing Vegetable Soup

Kari Percival Why did I love this book?

What is the point of gardening? Why all this digging around in the dirt? Lois Ehlert's Growing Vegetable Soup brings us through the steps and meaning of growing food, right up to the point: the empowering and delicious pay-off moment of making soup and eating it. But check out all her books on the theme. Ehlert's bright colors and shapes make an irresistible read, perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. 

By Lois Ehlert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Growing Vegetable Soup as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A book for the very young child which tells the story of a father and child who plant seeds in the garden. The book shows how the tiny plants grow and are cared for, and finally how the fully-grown vegetables are gathered up and taken into the kitchen to be prepared for soup.


Book cover of What Will Grow?

Kari Percival Why did I love this book?

What Will Grow? makes a game out of observing and guessing the identities of seeds and sprouting plants: preschoolers get to guess based on observing picture clues and hearing rhyming riddles before lifting the flaps to reveal each answer. This book builds connections between the stage of garden plants' development and also provides practice in building science skills. 

By Jennifer Ward, Susie Ghahremani (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Will Grow? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* "An enchanting vision." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

From the team behind the gorgeous What Will Hatch? comes a companion book all about seeds and the plants that grow from them--and featuring four pull-out gatefolds.

Seeds can be big or small, round or pointy, and all sorts of colors. They can become flowers, trees, fruits, or vegetables, and they sprout all times of year, during spring, summer, fall, and winter.

But all seeds have one thing in common--inside each is a new plant life waiting to emerge. What kind of plant will bloom? Wait and see what will grow!

Including…


Book cover of Secrets of the Vegetable Garden

Kari Percival Why did I love this book?

​When I was very small, planting peas in the garden with my grandfather, I felt like a sorcerer's apprentice being initiated into a realm of magic. Carron Brown's Secrets of the Vegetable Garden brings me back to that age of wonder by setting up mysteries to solve. Holding pages up to the sunlight reveals the answers to mysteries and riddles, and shows us what is secretly happening: potatoes growing under the earth, or seeds forming inside a fruit.

By Carron Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Secrets of the Vegetable Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What is hidden in the world around us? For ages 3 and up, the uniquely designed Shine-A-Light series of books uncovers the facts behind a diverse range of places and topics through hidden images that are revealed by light. First, view a full-colour scene and read about what is pictured - but what else is there? Shine a torch behind the page, or hold it up to the light, to reveal what is hidden. Turn the page to read fun facts about the hidden image in black and white. A world of surprises awaits!

Discover the hidden wonders of the…


Book cover of The Talking Vegetables

Kari Percival Why did I love this book?

Why garden at all? Isn't it a lot of work? I can always count on The Talking Vegetables, a retelling of a traditional African story, to delight toddlers and preschoolers. They revel in Spider's laziness as he shirks helping neighbors grow food at the community garden, and are just as delighted when he gets his comeuppance as the insulted vegetables refuse to let him get away without contributing to the team effort.

By Won-Ldy Paye, Margaret H. Lippert, Julie Paschkis (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Talking Vegetables as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

A wonderful folktale from the award-winning authors of Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile The villagers are planting a garden, but Spider refuses to help. He has plenty of rice to eat, so why should he do all that hard work? Then one day Spider gets tired of plain rice and decides to pick some of the delicious produce. Imagine his surprise when the vegetables start talking!
The talented team that created the award-winning titles Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile and Head, Body, Legs join together once again for a laugh-out-loud funny Liberian story. The Talking Vegetables is a…


Book cover of Pancakes, Pancakes!

Kari Percival Why did I love this book?

My toddlers loved Eric Carle's Pancakes, Pancakes! – and enjoyed hearing it over and over. Enticed into the story by Eric Carle's vivid and lively illustrations, you'll follow Jack as he asks his mom for pancakes for breakfast, then goes on an out-sized quest for all the ingredients from all over the farm and countryside. 

By Eric Carle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pancakes, Pancakes! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By cutting and grinding the wheat for flour, Jack starts from scratch to help make his breakfast pancake.


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Book cover of Sweet Dreams, Boone

Susan Grant Author Of The Bottle House

New book alert!

Who am I?

I am a Bible college graduate whose faith has always been a practical matter. Because I learned to find the “so what” of the Bible, when I became a teacher of the Bible in the public schools of Rowan County, North Carolina, my elective courses had waiting lists for students to get in to. As I now teach in Maine, I found I could continue to share a practical Christian faith through my writing. The books I have listed here do the very thing that I seek in my own writing.

Susan's book list on authentically illustrating genuine Christian faith

What is my book about?

Boone is a sad and lonely little dog. He doesn’t like to be left alone when Mom goes to work.

To help him feel better, Mom buys him a special basket for his bed. When he sleeps, he dreams of a long-ago time and meets a man who is sad and lonely too, until he meets Jesus.

Sweet Dreams, Boone

By Susan Grant, Kelly Artieri (illustrator),

What is this book about?

Boone is a sad and lonely little dog. He doesn’t like to be left alone when Mom goes to work. To help him feel better, Mom buys him a special basket for his bed. When he sleeps, he dreams of a long-ago time and meets a man who is sad and lonely too, until he meets Jesus.


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