Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

By Kate Messner, Christopher Silas Neal (illustrator),

Book cover of Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Book description

A companion to the new Over and Under the Pond and Over and Under the Snow, this sweet book explores the hidden world and many lives of a garden through the course of a year.

Up in the garden, the world is full of green-leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Many of us tend to view gardens only from the surface up.

This book dives underground to show how many living things in the dirt are working hard to help us garden. Worms and insects that we might find “gross” are actually essential for airing the soil and warding off invaders.

Plenty of things grow just fine without human help because they have all the helpers they need under the earth. This book shows how nature goes about its business, plants and insects and animals all working together to green the earth.

Bonus: Neal’s illustrations are anatomical wonders, showing worms…

Year round, I find “wow” moments in gardens with every new blossom, bug and delicious bite discovered. This book takes a child and her grandmother through four seasons filled with such moments, both in the garden above and dirt below. The language is fun with wasps on the prowl and frantic ants storing food for the winter. When carrots sprout, the illustrator shows them both above and below ground. And the night shift is not forgotten, with a skunk ,and bats, and moths for a spider.   

We tend to focus on what we can see aboveground as we plant and cultivate gardens, but there’s a lot going on out of sight down in the dirt. What would a plant be without roots and worms? The words of this book are poetic; for example, as winter ends: “Spring sun shines down to melt the sleepy snow. Wind whistles through last year’s plants, and mud sucks at my rain boots.” We watch a girl and her Nana care for their garden throughout the year. At the end of the book, the author provides an annotated list of creatures…

From Kate's list on children’s books about gardening.

What happens on the surface of the world is often a small part of what nature is doing, compared with what is going on beneath the surface. This narrative picture book follows the yearly lifecycle of a garden by exploring what happens on the surface and what’s going on underground. Use it to help kids dig into nature, exploring seasonal changes, seen and unseen.

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