Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.

Alice Waters

As we stumble out from the gray skies of winter into the bluer skies of spring, there seems to be a collective moment to pause and notice the awakening of the world around us. Leaves and buds begin to appear on trees, birds build nests, shoots push their way up through soil and between sidewalk cracks. When we take time to notice life waking up to say “hello,” it’s a great opportunity to introduce the idea of growth to our children.

Research shows that children who spend more time positively interacting with nature end up valuing nature more as adults. This may lead them to make stronger choices about recycling, taking alternative modes of transportation, and becoming active in other conservation efforts.

And if you’re looking for a fun way to encourage outdoor time and mindfulness to the miracle of life all around us, picture books about gardening are a fantastic place to start. They teach children about plants and why they grow, and show kids that they can be a part of growing, cultivating, and eating flourishing gardens! Get ready to be inspired (and maybe just a little hungry) after reading these lovely kids’ books about gardening.

The Ugly Vegetables

Written and illustrated by Grace Lin

This is one of my favorite children’s books of all time. Springtime has arrived, and every house in the neighborhood has a garden going. But while most are filled with beautiful flowers, our young narrator is disappointed that her family’s garden is just full of ugly vegetables! As the gardens continue to grow, we see the main character struggle with her mother’s traditional Chinese garden and her own desire to be like other families. But when it comes time to harvest the vegetables, everyone in the neighborhood wants in on the delicious soup they make!


Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

by Kate Messner, Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

In this sweet book, author Kate Messner explores the cycle of the seasons and the life of plants through the family of a young girl and her Nana. The protagonist learns about the planting and cultivation of fruit and vegetables, as well as the joy of eating the food they’ve grown. We see how ladybugs, bees, and butterflies also help the garden grow. Simultaneously, we get to explore the world of the garden below the dirt. The reader learns how worms, dead leaves, and pill bugs also contribute to the plant cycle. It’s heartwarming and informative, not to mention dynamically illustrated.


Summer Supper

by Rubin Pfeffer, Illustrated by Mike Austin

The only thing this book highlights more than gardening is the letter S! Each page is filled with gardening and cooking words, each beginning with this swirly letter. With few words and lots of alliteration, it’s a great volume to help kids learn about letter sounds and make the connection between print and speech that will lead to successful reading, writing, and spelling. It also contains a lot of onomatopoeias, which makes it a noisy and fun read-aloud book. So dive into the world of summer gardening and the silly sounds of S. (Related: See our posts about drawing kids’ attention to print and teaching children the alphabet.)


Growing Vegetable Soup

written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Renowned author/illustrator Lois Ehlert is no stranger to creating children’s books about nature. With simple sentences and bright, bold illustrations, this volume is engaging for the youngest gardeners. You can even get it in board book form. Growing Vegetable Soup is true to its title, following the plot from planting vegetable seeds, through using tools to harvest them, and finally throwing them together in a pot to make the most delicious soup ever! For a complete story time activity, follow up your reading by making vegetable soup together with your child.


Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood

by Tony Hillery,  illustrated by Jessie Hartland

This nonfiction kids’ gardening book is by Tony Hillery, the founder of an urban-farming nonprofit organization called Harlem Grown. In 2011, Hillery discovered an empty, ignored lot in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. And with a lot of love, and even more hard work, he transformed it into a garden where children could learn about food and try fresh produce. This book follows his story, demonstrating how gardening can truly change people’s lives.


If You Plant a Seed

written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

In this lovely book, author/illustrator Kadir Nelson has created a masterpiece of metaphor to inspire little listeners. A rabbit and a mouse plant a seed and are excited to reap the rewards of their hard work—but, when their food is ready, some other animals have other plans. Nelson’s gorgeous illustrations show how a garden grows, while his poetic language illustrates that, just as we plant a seed that grows into a full garden, we can plant seeds of kindness that will grow into more and more kindness and a full life.


Where in the Garden Series

by JaNay Brown-Wood, Illustrated by Samara Hardy

Where in the Garden is an adorable series of four picture books about different children and their different types of gardens. It includes: Amara’s Farm about all the produce a girl’s family farm produces each fall; Miguel’s Community Garden about healthy food grown in urban surroundings, Logan’s Greenhouse about a family’s greenhouse and the search for wonderful winter vegetables, and Linh’s Rooftop Garden, due out in 2023. Each book explores different produce and flowers, as well as sending kids on a seek-and-find search for specific plants as they read. This series is interactive and shows that you can grow a garden anywhere you live!


One Little Lot: The 1-2-3s of an Urban Garden

by Diane C. Mullen,  illustrated by Oriol Vidal

Kids love a good counting book, and this one is one of my favorites! Beyond simply counting items in a garden, One Little Lot uses numbers and counting to tell the story of a community working together to transform an abandoned city lot into a thriving garden. What starts off as one lonely lot ends with ten newfound friends enjoying the fruits of their labor together. A sweet lesson, and a fun way to practice numbers as you read aloud to your little ones.


Yasmin the Gardener

by Saadia Faruqi, Illustrated by Hatem Aly

Ideal for early readers, this book recounts the story of Yasmin, a young Pakistani-American girl with ambition and a fabulous imagination. Yasmin the Gardener is part of a whole series about Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi. In each book, the girl takes on a new and exciting challenge for her career goal of the day. In this edition, Yasmin longs to be (you guessed it) a gardener! Her father explains the importance of caring for plants like you would any other living thing, and Yasmin takes the responsibility seriously. At the end of the book is an Urdu-English glossary, plus a cool gardening craft to do with your child.


My First Book of Growing Food 

by Duopress Labs,, illustrated by Åsa Gilland

If you’re looking for a way to introduce your baby or toddler to gardening and the concept of growing food, try this board book. My First Book of Growing Food gets into the growing conditions that various vegetables and fruits need to flourish, talks about their different flavors, and suggests ways you can prepare them, as well. The charming  illustrations by Asa Gilland demonstrate that we can raise food in many different places—from a garden to inside a house or even the windowsill of an apartment.


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