Cultivating young gardeners

This little book is a child's introduction to the way things grow and the importance of plants in our universe. Designed with vintage illustrations to hold the attention of those too young to read the text, it is a mix of basic science lessons and delightful growing experiments -- one for each month of the year. All can be easily achieved with help from adults, and no special equipment is needed.

The January section shows how to start plants from seeds on a plate, in a jar or on a sponge. For February, it tells how to grow a carrot, pineapple or avocado in your kitchen. April's fun is growing a tiny garden in an eggshell. July is terrarium month. Pages cover plant structure; fertilizer; the properties of air, sun and water; and even a few puzzles based on names of flowers.

The writing is fairly mature, with excellent explanations meant for older children that will sail over preschoolers' heads. But the experiments tap into that sense of wonder evident in even the youngest would-be botanists -- those who respond to the miracle of growing things although they cannot yet read, write or pronounce the word "photosynthesis."

-- Bettijane Levine

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