Pre-K

Growing Reader

Little Green Thumbs: 11 Garden-Filled Picture Books for Spring

by Devon A. 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

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    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)

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  • Seeds

    by Carme Lemniscates

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    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)

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  • The Secret Garden

    by Frances Gilbert and Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Brigette Barrager

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    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 hardcover edition or this version for early chapter book readers.)
    (Ages 2 - 5)

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  • Peppa Pig and the Vegetable Garden

    by Candlewick Press

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    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)

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  • Little Honey Bee

    by Katie Haworth, illustrated by Jane Ormes

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    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)

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  • Grandma’s Gardens

    by Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, ilustrated by Carme Lemniscates

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    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)

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  • Just Ask

    by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

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    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)

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  • The Forever Garden

    by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Samantha Cotterill

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    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)

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  • Stories from Bug Garden

    by Lisa Moser, illustrated by Gwen Millward

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    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)

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  • Secrets of the Garden

    by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

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    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)

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  • A New Beginning

    by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Linda Bleck

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    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)

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This article was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2020.