Sometimes it's hard to comprehend how much bounty and beauty can come from something so small. In A seed is the start (National Geographic, February 13, 2018) written by Melissa Stewart readers are given the inside story on seeds. Your appreciation for them will grow as large as the results they produce.
A seed is the start of a new plant life.
Bury it in soil, and watch it grow,
Step by step through words and a cross-section of earth we watch and understand how a planted corn seed splits, shoots a root down and a bit of green up. That green in turn reaches for the sun until leaves unfurl soaking up the sun they seek. From the sunlight this corn plant makes food to nourish itself.
Plants travel to private spaces so they can grow strong. If you've ever seen a milkweed pod open or a dandelion head shed, you know seeds have a way to fly. Did you know a maple seed can glide the length of two American football fields?
If you look closely at the top of a poppy plant after the petals are gone the fruit sits alone. Like a salt or pepper shaker seeds spill from its holes if breezes blow. Have you ever wandered among the wetlands in the spring? Marsh marigolds grow there announcing spring. After the flowers finish blooming pods form and snap open. Rains cause the seeds to splash into the surrounding water.
Page by page you read about seeds on the move. They float, drift, pop, hop, creep, hook and cling. Their specific characteristics designed according to their habitats help perpetuate their existence. If seeds can't get about through their own locomotion, they are known to hitch a ride inside or outside another living creature. Seeds are a glorious circle of life; seed to plant, then to flower and fruit and then more seeds.
Every time Melissa Stewart writes we readers are winners. Her love of science and the natural world drives her curiosity and research. When she learns she passes this on to us. In this newest title she begins by explaining six words to readers; berry, burr, fruit, nut, seed and seedpod. From this point her factual, fascinating story of seeds sprouts and grows. By explaining a seed's need for space, she not only acquaints us with their methods of travel but we learn of plants throughout the world. Some are familiar to us but others will cause us to exclaim out loud. Here is an example of her writing style in this title.
Look at these Asian climbing gourds!
These fruits are the size of basketballs. They grow
on vines in the rain forests of Southeast Asia.
When a gourd cracks open,
hundreds of seeds take flight. They
glide through the trees. After a seed lands, its
wings slowly rot away. Then a new vine sprouts.
Realistic photographs by a variety of artists (named in the credits on the verso page) grace each page beginning with the matching dust jacket and book case. Notice how the smaller photographs are placed in circles (like the circle of life). This particular design is carried throughout the book.
On the page defining those initial six terms a small pictorial example is placed at the end of the phrase. It will be interesting to see if readers can name all of them. It also provides an impetus for further research. On many of the pages the circles provide a place for important text describing a particular image.
Shades of green and yellow with faint outlines of plants supply a textured canvas for pictures and text. Rounded fonts in different sizes generate accents in contrast to more traditional fonts. Font colors are yellow, white and black. The larger words have green shadows outlining each letter. This lettering with this particular color palette and the selected photographs create a stunning visual effect.
One of my favorite of many photographs is for the discussion of Seeds splash. On the background of green and yellow leaves, a large three-quarter circle extends from the lower left-hand corner of the page. In it is a close-up of a cluster of marsh marigolds with a rushing stream blurred behind them. To the right of this image is a smaller complete circle. In it is a magnified group of seedpods opened and filled with tiny seeds. (For someone who has enjoyed the beauty of marsh marigolds for decades, this is truly a gift to see.)
For a unit on seeds, spring, to celebrate Earth Day or to simply enjoy the wonder of our planet, A seed is the start written by Melissa Stewart is a book for all to enjoy. It is certain to be popular with one-on-one sharing or with a group during story time. I highly recommend this title for all professional and personal collections. An index, selected sources and books and online resources for more information conclude this title.
To learn more about Melissa Stewart, her body of work and this title, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Melissa has created blog posts on how to use this title with grades K, 1, 2 and 3. She promises to continue with ideas for grades 4 and 5. This is a link to a Pinterest board which helped to inspire this title. At Penguin Random House you can view an interior image from this book. Here is a National Geographic Kids Educator's Guide for this title. All of Melissa Stewart's ideas are in this single publication.
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to enjoy the titles selected by others participating in this week's 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.
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