About the Holiday
April is the month when the earth comes alive again after a long winter! Flowers bloom in brilliant colors, trees bud and blossom with pale, green leaves, and the birds and animals prepare for new life to come. Today enjoy the warmer weather, plan a garden or flower bed, or visit a nursery or park and take in the sights and smells of spring!
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Snow still blankets the ground as a little girl and her Nana survey their garden plot. The girl’s head is full of dreams of the bounty to come. As the days warm and the wind whistles, the girl and her Nana dig in the mud. “’It’s not quite time,’” says Nana. “’Down in the dirt, things need to dry out and warm up.’” Her granddaughter is curious about what’s below.
Down in the dirt, Nana tells her, a whole world of insects are already working. Up above, the two gardeners are working too—gathering scattered twigs, removing weeds, and spreading compost.
Down in the dirt, pill bugs chew dead leaves, rolling into tight balls when poked. Up in the garden planting is taking place, the seeds carefully snuggled into beds and watered. As peas and other early plants sprout, bees pollinate and wasps hover.
Down in the dirt earthworms tunnel, enjoying the cool soil. Up in the garden the girl and her Nana rest in the shade then play in a sprinkled shower. Down in the dirt the water soaks deep, feeding the squash plants’ roots.
The summer is progressing and up in the garden tomatoes and beans are ripe for eating. Down in the dirt a robin finds a meal too. Up in the garden there’s so much to harvest. Nana and her granddaughter work until dark, sharing the garden with bats and June bugs. With nightfall a skunk finds grubs and cutworms down in the dirt.
The air is turning cooler up in the garden. Pumpkins turn orange under towering sunflowers while down in the dirt a spider weaves her sticky web. As Autumn wanes it’s time for the final garden harvest. Down in the dirt the insects know it too; they scurry to gather food.
Up in the garden and down in the dirt everything is prepared for winter. As snow once again blankets the garden plot, the girl and her Nana, the earthworms and pill bugs, the bees, and the skunk are all waiting for spring to come again.
Kate Messner’s lyrical paean to gardening is a wonderful way to introduce children to the changing seasons and how nature works together. Comparing and contrasting what gardeners do up above as they plant, tend, and harvest their crops to the work insects and animals perform down below emphasizes the interconnectedness contained in even a small plot of land. Messner’s language is beautifully evocative—the snow is sleepy, brittle stalks snap and are rustly when gathered, chickens squabble and scratch, newly planted seeds snuggle in the dark, pumpkins blush orange, and sunflowers bow to September.
Christopher Silas Neal illustrates the changing garden with striking up-close, ground view images of the plants and creatures that call the garden home. Vibrant green grasshoppers, brilliant yellow sunflowers, deliciously red tomatoes, soft pink worms, scruffy backyard animals, and more join a sprightly Nana and her curious granddaughter in soil so dark and fertile that any gardener would be envious.
The final pages include more information on the creatures found in the book, a list for further reading, and an author’s note. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt would be a welcome and special addition to any budding gardener’s or outdoor lover’s library.
Ages 5 – 9
Chronicle Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1452119366
National Garden Month Activity
Plant a Flower Garden! Word Search
Whether you like to plant your flower bed in horizontal or vertical rows or just scatter the seeds for a wild burst of color, you’ll love this word search planted with favorite spring and summer blooms. Print your Plant a Flower Garden! word search and the Solution here!