Cindy: In the cold north we are finally shedding coats and seeing the first sprouts of spring. The flowering trees are stunning this week and gardeners are itching to get to their beds—and not the ones in which they’ve been slumbering all winter! Young children may not enjoy weeding, but many are certainly eager to dig in the dirt and to seek out the critters that live on and around the local plants.
The cover of Lisa Moser’s Stories from Bug Garden (2016) features a garden populated with cute bugs that will entice young readers to look inside. There they will find poems and charming illustrations of a forgotten, neglected garden that is slowly inhabited by bug after bug, each one featured in a poem. First up is Ladybug:
Ladybug never liked her name.
A lady had to sip tea,
fold her napkin,
and sit up very tall.
But when no one was looking,
Ladybug ran barefoot,
made mud angels,
and whistled through a blade of grass.
Children will meet Dragonfly, Roly-Poly, Big Ant and Little Ant, Cricket, Earthworm, and many other critters that come to call the garden home. Gwen Millward’s illustrations are a perfect complement to this cheerful exploration of garden life. There are plenty of classroom connections to make here, but this is also a perfect lap book for those days when the weather shifts and gardening must wait. Michigan had snow just two weeks ago . . . sigh.)
Lynn: Another garden, this one English and completely wacky, appears in Gary Northfield’s graphic novel, Gary’s Garden (June 2016), which will be reviewed in the May 15 issue of Booklist. The denizens of this backyard garden appear in a series of one- to three-page comic adventures with many of the jokes coming back in new variations. There are a lot of bugs in this garden, too: a tap-dancing spider, a caterpillar whose brother is already a butterfly and, of course, the Camouflage Club where the members can’t find each other. Lots of other backyard critters join the silliness, such as Rupert, a squirrel who can’t seem to hang onto his acorns; birds who raid the pantry for overdue snacks; and Morris and Boris, a fox and a hedgehog who fight an epic battle with a rogue handbag.
Northfield imparts a surprising amount of information, though the focus is on fun and the ongoing dramas hidden in the leaves and grass. Clueless humans make appearances, too, including one really funny scene in which Gary marvels at the beautiful birdsong, completely oblivious to the fact that the birds are discussing how ridiculous he looks. Don’t miss the end pages featuring a trading card–style guide to all the characters with ratings for intelligence, heroism, grumpiness, ickiness, and legs. Delighted readers are sure to take a second look at just who and what lives in their own backyards.