Little Green Thumbs: 10 Garden-Filled Picture Books for Spring
by Devon A. Corneal
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!
Hope is a Hop
This beautifully illustrated picture book combines themes of hope, perseverance, and new beginnings. A little girl named Eva works hard in her garden, hoping to create a vibrant, flower-filled haven. But a pesky rabbit eats her flowers, and she almost gives up. However, Eva’s persistence pays off when she makes a surprising discovery about her long-eared nemesis.
(Ages 3 - 7)
Stories from Bug Garden
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)
Linh's Rooftop Garden
Gardens can grow in many places. In this case, Linh’s garden is on her roof, where she wants to have a picnic with her friends. She hunts through the plants, looking for blueberries to serve her guests. Young readers will love helping Linh search for the blueberries and comparing the fruits and vegetables on each page. Check out the rest of the Where In the Garden? series for more garden-filled fun.
(Ages 3 - 7)
Hello, World! Backyard Bugs
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)
Be they seeds that take adventures on the wind or the ones we plant in our own backyards, seeds are inarguably magical, tiny powerhouses. The author of Trees turns her attention — and whimsical illustrations — to the seeds that start it all, and encourages readers to plant their own metaphorical seeds of kindness around the world.
(Ages 2 - 5)
The Secret Garden
What would this list be without a picture book retelling of 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 for early chapter book readers.)
(Ages 2 - 5)Preorder from:
Little Honey Bee
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)
My First Garden
Aspiring gardeners and kids with green thumbs will love this eco-friendly, informational book about planting and caring for a garden. It’s filled with helpful tips on choosing the best plants for beginners, how to care for them, and when to harvest the food you grow.
(Ages 5 - 7)
In Grandma’s Gardens, mother-daughter duo Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton pay homage to Hillary’s mother, Grandma Dorothy, who passed on her love for gardening to them. It’s simultaneously a tribute to the wonders of nature — where we can learn, make discoveries, and practice mindfulness — as well as a celebration of family traditions that are passed on through generations.
(Ages 4 - 8)
A community garden serves as the backdrop and heartwarming metaphor for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s picture book. Drawing from her own experience with childhood diabetes, Sotomayor shows that just as variety makes for a beautiful garden, different types of people make for a beautiful world. And if you have questions about someone whose experiences look different than your own? Just ask!
(Ages 4 - 8)
This article was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2023.