I’m an avid vegetable gardener, but I’m definitely still learning alongside my family. One of the resources we’ve turned to is Rodale Kids books that merge two of our great loves: gardening and children’s books. We’ve sampled several titles together, but my family is particularly partial to the Mrs. Peanuckle’s Alphabet series, with art by Jessie Ford. Here are six reasons — (mostly) approved by my four kids, ranging from a baby to a 7-year-old — why we think it’s a series worth “digging” into:
1. Everyone will learn about something new.
These nature-themed titles aren’t your average alphabet books. They are fun for adults to read aloud and appeal to a wider range of ages than their sturdy board book format might suggest. My toddler loves how Mrs. Peanuckle’s Vegetable Alphabet gives the cucumber — the only green food he’ll acknowledge — a cheeky mustache. My older kids marveled at the suggestion to eat dandelion leaves (though maybe not from our yard because “we step on them”).
2. Kids might even be inspired to eat something new.
In my parenting experience, I’ve found that a suggestion to try a new food that comes from Mom is rarely well-received. An enticing suggestion from a friend, favorite teacher, or a great book, however, has a much better shot. Getting a real look at the “polka-dot surprise” that Mrs. Peanuckle’s Fruit Alphabet promises can be found inside a dragon fruit is now on our family to-do list.
3. The illustrations will make you happy.
The paint, ink, and crayon images that accompany each alphabet letter may not teach readers exactly how items really look — there’s Google to help with that — but they are some of the most jovial renditions you’ll find. I’ve always wanted a lemon tree, and I’m wondering where I can find one that grows cute, smiling lemons like the one in Mrs. Peanuckle’s Tree Alphabet.
4. The text is cheerful, too.
Interesting details are sprinkled throughout the descriptions of each item, perfectly tailored to inquisitive kids. (Did you know incense cedar trees make great pencils? How about that katsura trees are good for climbing?) It’s only fitting that F is for “Fairy Wings” in Mrs. Peanuckle’s Flower Alphabet, a woodland wildflower described as “such happy little things.” Even a discussion of vultures is upbeat; Mrs. Peanuckle’s Bird Alphabet tells us, “V is for vulture, who eats all the dead things so the world won’t smell bad.”
5. Peanuckle has a way with words.
Board book ABC titles aren’t typically heralded for their linguistic prowess, but this series provides so many chances for young listeners to enjoy language and learn new vocabulary. Eagles are “quite regal,” juncos spend their days “jumping and jiving in the forest” and lyrebirds can “mimic any sound.”
6. It’s fun to imagine: Who is Peanuckle, anyway?
Imagining the authors behind books is often a stretch for kids, but the formality of her last-name-only signature makes Mrs. Peanuckle even more mysterious. Mrs. Peanuckle’s Bug Alphabet lets us know that crickets are her favorite bug “because their night song means it’s summertime.” Her little quips and interjections remind me of a sprightly and grandmotherly teacher I had, so I picture her with curly gray hair and a skip in her step. My kids think she probably wears boots, since she “likes to write about the outdoors a lot.” No details are for certain, but we hope whoever she is, she keeps on writing!
Get the Mrs. Peanuckle’s Alphabet Books:
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Which Mrs. Peanuckle’s Alphabet book is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below!