Friday, May 24, 2024

The soil in Jackie's garden by Peggy Thomas, illustrated by Neely Daggett

 Feeding Minds Press does a lot of picture books that are very popular in my quasi-rural library. We've been trying to do more outdoor and nature-based programming over the years as we build our outdoor space, and last year the absolute favorite outreach storytime my staff took to the 4K schools was worms! And yes, she had real worms!

I was a little doubtful about this title because it opens vertically, but it's laid out nicely so it's worth a little bit of maneuvering in holding it to read aloud.

After starting with the end pages, which show rich brown earth spotted with twining vines and creatures, the book moves on to the title page showing a small community dotted with raised beds and community gardens. The story begins below the earth, showing roots, rocks, grubs, worms and rodents. Jackie's feet in boots are shown sturdily above the expanse of earth and readers learn simple facts about the composition of soil, function of worms, seeds and roots.

The read-aloud text follows the form of the nursery rhyme, but as the story progresses and we see more of "Jackie" she turns out to be a cute brown-skinned girl with her wavy hair in pigtails. She and her friends watch as plants extend their roots, shoot up stems, sprout leaves, and are pollinated. After she and her friends, one of whom uses forearm crutches, enjoy the fruit and flowers from their garden, they transfer the leftovers to a compost bin and the story begins to return to the earth, following the creatures that break down the compost and ending with the original picture showing thriving raised beds in Jackie's garden.

Back matter fills out the facts included in the books with further diagrams of the cycles of soil and plants.

Verdict: While a traditionally laid out book is easier for storytime, this is a great story for little ones to introduce them to the garden and soil cycle. It will be easy to read under a document camera and will make a great addition to storytimes about gardens, worms, compost, and nature. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781948898164; Published May 2024 by Feeding Minds Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

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