Just a month ago, after visiting our dormant, snow-covered garden in the backyard, my 5-year-old asked, “Mama, what happens to the worms in the winter time?” And though I didn’t have the answer, I knew just what book would: Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, by Kate Messner, with art by Christopher Silas Neal– a beautiful book about a garden in every season, above the soil and below. It begins in late winter with the ground still saturated with melted snow and frosty soil, “Down in the dirt, things need to dry out and warm up,” a grandmother tells her granddaughter as they kneel in the mud.
We follow the two on their journey through the next four seasons as they prepare the garden with compost in a bright red wheelbarrow, plant seeds and gently tend them, pull weeds and water the garden (and each other), watch the plants grow and produce food, and harvest the spoils of their hard work.
All the while, we see what goes on both above and below ground, bringing to light the dark mysteries of the underground world and the creatures that are just as important as what we see above ground.
Part of what we enjoy most about this book is its full-circle nature; we see the process and harmony of all the creatures in each season as integral to one another’s success. Every ant, grub, worm, bird, and bee have an important job to do in the garden. And the bonus is found at the end of the story with a guide to all the creatures mentioned or drawn in the book — the beneficial as well as the pest variety, including their scientific names and roles they play in the backyard garden. Neal’s illustrations convey the beauty of the garden and all its inhabitants, and could not be more lovely. Check out this book before spring is over to inspire the little gardener in your home.
Lauren Knight blogs at Crumb Bums.
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