Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Small Beginnings

One of nature's many miracles is seeds.  Some of them are so small when you sow them it's like scattering sugar.  Other's need to be soaked overnight so growth is encouraged and stems will appear sooner. Many members of the gourd family are grouped together to grow in hills.  If you want a potato, plant a potato, making sure there are several "eyes" buried in the dirt.

Unless you are an avid horticulturalist finding a seed without any sort of identification is like discovering a mystery.  What Will Grow? (Bloomsbury Children's Books, February 14, 2017) written by Jennifer Ward with illustrations by Susie Ghahremani gives readers the means to crack the code of what each seed holds inside.  All the answers build toward a pleasant surprise.



For each of the twelve seeds a poetic description provides clues.  Physical characteristics may be supplied.  How the seed is sown hints at the outcome.  With a glance to the right, the reader can easily see if their guess is correct.

If the seeds are planted in a precise row, a gardener has plans for them.  If a clever woodland creature buries them, something tall and sturdy will stretch to the sky.  If currents of air spread them here, there, and seemingly everywhere, a carpet of yellow is sure to appear in the spring.

A tiny package can contain a much larger, succulent fruit which can vary in size depending on the variety.  Black and white stripes can contain giant bursts of golden yellow swaying on tall stalks.  These floating tufts of white generate food for the majestic monarch.  Without it monarchs cannot survive.

A core tossed alongside a roadway, last year's jack-o-lantern squashed to mush, or a holiday wreath left hanging a bit too long all have the potential to create something beauty and beneficial.  In every season the wonders stored inside seeds work their marvels.  We fortunate humans and other animals reap the rewards.

The melodious words written by Jennifer Ward welcome participation and speculation.  They also ask us to pause, close our eyes and visualize her depictions.   The rhythm supplied by her two lines and rhyming words at the end of each will captivate readers as they attempt to figure out the riddle.  Here is another sample passage.



The first thing readers will appreciate about this book is the choice of paper for the dust jacket and interior pages.  The matte finish and heavier stock furnish us with a wonderful, tactile experience.  When opening the matching dust jacket and book case the color palette presents a soothing sense and the image, extended to portray hilly expanses, shows more sunflowers in various stages of growth.  The sunflower seeds scattered along the bottom give readers the chance to connect the one with the other.  The rabbit is the first of many animals featured on every two pages.

The opening and closing endpapers are a cool green with a pattern of seeds, each kind grouped together, across the pages.  On the verso and title pages we see a progression of growth, seeds to tall stalk, as a ladybug journeys from place to place, climbing and flying.  Rendered in gouache on wood and hand lettered by Susie Ghahremani these visuals are works of art.

Her two page illustrations, with four gatefolds, hold our gaze from left to right.  We get to see the seeds form the plants in a stunning display almost like slow motion but totally complete at the same time.  All the seasons of the year are presented in full earth-tone shades.  Most of the illustrations bring us close to the seeds, animals and the resulting plants.  We are usually viewing the picture from a perspective other than human.

The attention to detail is utterly lovely.  Susie is careful to present the correct animal in each scene.  Readers will be looking intently for a certain bug after every page turn.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the pumpkin seeds.  The background hills are now a golden shade.  In the foreground a garden in varying hues of brown serves as a canvas for the scattered seeds, seedlings and slowly growing vines.  On the right the vines have produced blossoms and several pumpkins.  A tiny ladybug crawls on the far left.  On the right a raccoon stands eagerly looking at the pumpkins.  Its hands are brought up in front as if in anticipation of a snack.

You can't read this book only once.  I predict What Will Grow? written by Jennifer Ward with illustrations by Susie Ghahremani will have a well-loved look quickly whether it's on library, classroom or home bookshelves.  Readers will be ready to garden before they have even finished it the first time.  By the third time, they will be leaving the garage or shed with a shovel in hand. At the close of the colorful reveal, each seed in alphabetical order is explained further.  You are told when it's best to sow, the necessary steps and when it will grow.  A simple, perfect textual and visual explanation is offered for the four stages from seed to plant on the following two pages.

To learn more about Jennifer Ward and Susie Ghahremani and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Jennifer is interviewed at Tucson Tales.  Susie is interviewed at websites with a heart.  At the publisher's website there is a twelve-page activity guide for you to download.

Be sure to stop by Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the choices this week by other bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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