Recent surveys indicate that many urban children have no idea that milk comes from cows or that eggs come from chickens, much less any sense of the greater cycles of nature. In our disconnected era of merely virtual reality, Sharon Lovejoy has created a career out of as noble an activity as you can imagine - teaching children to stay connected with the earth. Gardening painlessly teaches patience and foresight, encourages imagination, and demonstrates how the natural world works.
Lovejoy is the author of two previous books on gardening with children, Sunflower Houses and Hollyhock Days. A talented watercolorist, she beautifully illustrates her own books. She is also a regular guest on both House and Garden TV and The Discovery Channel. She writes clearly and with the casual authority of long-standing expertise.
Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots features 12 gardens created around particular themes - a Flowery Maze, a Snacking and Sipping Garden, a Zuni Waffle Garden, a Pizza Patch, a Giant's Garden, and many others. Each chapter offers a new round of discovery walks, activities, diagrams, and drawings. Fascinating tidbits range from the favorite snacks of the Hidatsa tribe to using a stethoscope to hear beetles boring inside bark, from how to grow fancifully shaped carrots to attracting nighttime insects so you can examine them and release them without harm.
Each section's activities suit the season. Harvest activities include drawing the Cherokee corn maiden and constructing a Zuni scarecrow for the garden, crafting jewelry from the corn itself, and making toy animals from the husks.
A chapter entitled "Gardening Basics" covers all you need to know about earthworms, mulching, watering, deadheading, and how to share each of these activities with children. And "Top 20 Plants for Kids" introduces you to the whys and wherefores of selecting the right plants for your young gardeners.
"Visit your plants every day," Lovejoy advises children at one point. "Soon they'll become as familiar as old friends." Then she goes on to good advice for life in general: "Something magical and new is always happening in your garden. Take the time to discover it."
Michael Sims is the author of Darwin's Orchestra (Henry Holt).