Growing Reader

Little Green Thumbs: 12 Garden-Filled Picture Books for Spring

by Devon Corneal

Photo credit: JGI/Jamie Grill, Blend Images/Getty Images

Longer days, warmer weather, and a few hardy flowers typically signal the start of spring, which in my family means it’s time to start planning our garden. We head outside to see what damage winter did to our raised vegetable beds and which plants survived the frost. Our garden isn’t huge, just a sunny patch in the backyard, but my son and I enjoy tending it and picking strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and the occasional cucumber. We visit the herb garden before we make salad dressing and pick basil, rosemary, and thyme. It’s a little piece of my Central Pennsylvania childhood transported to suburban New Jersey.

If you have a kid who loves to dig in the mud, plant seeds, or pretend to be a farmer, we’ve got a wonderful collection of books to cultivate their interest in getting their hands dirty. Reading and gardening are both great ways to connect with your kids — and you don’t need acres to do either. Check out these reads to get in the gardening mindset, set aside a sunny patch of ground or fill a container with dirt on your windowsill, and get started!

  • Hello, World! Backyard Bugs

    by Jill McDonald

    Bugs come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Do you know what different kinds there are? This colorfully illustrated board book will inspire young readers to explore their backyard gardens and get to know their neighbors that live in the dirt, flowers, and trees!
    (Ages 0 - 3)

  • The Secret Garden

    by Frances Gilbert, illustrated by Brigette Barrager

    What would this list be without Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden? This classic tale first introduces readers to orphaned Mary Lennox as she travels to live with her reclusive uncle Archibald Craven on the Yorkshire moors. Mary is a contrary and unpleasant girl until she discovers a hidden garden and begins to tend it. With the help of her sickly cousin Colin and her new friend Dickon, Mary soon finds that both plants and people grow and change with love and attention. (More advanced young readers can check out this version or this version.)
    (Ages 2 - 5)

  • Peppa Pig and the Vegetable Garden

    by Candlewick Press

    One of the coolest things about having a garden is being able to eat what you grow. That’s what Peppa and her little brother George discover when they spend time with Grandpa Pig in the garden and then pick ingredients for salad and Granny Pig’s blackberry pie!
    (Ages 2 - 5)

  • Little Honey Bee

    by Katie Haworth, illustrated by Jane Ormes

    Insects are an important part of a garden, especially the bees who help pollinate crops. Help your kids appreciate the role bees play in keeping our lives filled with fruits, vegetables, and flowers with this bright and joyous counting book.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

  • Tokyo Digs a Garden

    by Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka

    Tokyo lives in the city surrounded by giant buildings, unsure if he’ll ever see trees or grass again. But one day Tokyo plants seeds in this cement jungle and those seeds grow into a real forest that takes over the city. This gorgeous story challenges readers to consider the environments we live in and the value of green space and growing things.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

  • The Curious Garden

    by Peter Brown

    When Liam discovers a struggling garden and decides to make it his own, he has no idea what will happen. He soon discovers that with a little care and attention, even the darkest plot of land can turn into something lush and green.
    (Ages 4 - 7)

  • The Forever Garden

    by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Samantha Cotterill

    When Honey learns that she is moving away, she worries about the fate of her beloved garden. Luckily, her friend Laurel is there to help. Honey finds out that one of the best things about having a garden is growing friendships.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • EIEIO: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm with a Little Help From a Hen

    by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Matthew Myers

    When our story starts, Old MacDonald doesn’t have a farm. All he has is a yard that he doesn’t want to mow — which is fine with Little Red Hen who has plans of her own for this suburban oasis. Read along to see how they turn a backyard into an extraordinary adventure in gardening.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • Stories from Bug Garden

    by Lisa Moser, illustrated by Gwen Millward

    When I garden, I pay the most attention to the plants, but hidden in the leaves of the edible and decorative flora are the bugs — the tiniest residents of my vegetable and flower beds. You won’t regret spending some time with these itty-bitty denizens of the dirt in Stories from Bug Garden.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

    by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

    Gardens are beautiful to look at, but we sometimes forget that they are just as beautiful below ground where the worms and roots live. This book will have you racing for the shovel to see what lies under the surface.
    (Ages 5 - 8)

  • Secrets of the Garden

    by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

    Ever find yourself wondering why plants grow, what impact insects have on plants, or why animals find certain things in the garden so tasty? Children can let their inner scientists shine with this informative journey through Alice's backyard.
    (Ages 5 - 9)

  • A New Beginning

    by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Linda Bleck

    After a long winter, we all look forward to the (literally) life-giving warmth of a new season. Celebrate the coming of spring with A New Beginning, and learn about how people mark this joyous season every year, all around the world.
    (Ages 6 - 9)

Tell us more about your favorite gardening books and how you encourage your children’s green thumbs!