The Wall and the Wild

The Wall and the Wild
Christina Dendy and Katie Rewse
Lantana Publishing

At the edge of Stone Hollow town, young Ana grows a garden – a perfect garden, tidy and full of life; it’s in stark contrast to the wild, the place where she tosses her unwanted, left over seeds and against which she creates a boundary to delineate and shelter her orderly garden from the disorder beyond.

Soon Ana’s garden is full of scented flowers, delicious fruit and vegetables, leafy trees and birds and insects in abundance. It’s a place where people like to stop and admire what they see, but while they might be full of admiration, Ana is not.

Certainly not when she notices unfamiliar plants that have started to grow; these she pulls up, tossing them and other seeds that she now rejects into the wild. She also builds her boundary a bit higher and now her garden isn’t quite so thriving: less tasty crops grow and the numbers of visitors both natural and human, diminish. Despite this Ana continues to reject many seeds and shoots, hurling them into the ever-increasing wild against which she keeps on building up her boundary until eventually it’s an enormous wall.

Now at last Ana stops and takes stock of her creation – first on her side of the wall and then finally, she decides to look beyond …

What she discovers is truly astonishing and unexpectedly beautiful in its own way. Time to start removing some of that wall …

Both a fable, and a cautionary tale of sorts, Christina Dendy’s story, in tandem with Katie Rewse’s vibrant illustrations, shows the importance of biodiversity and of embracing and appreciating wildness. It’s great to see the subtle inclusion of Ana’s hearing aid in this beautiful book, which offers a great way to introduce the idea of rewilding and its potential benefits especially to those readers with gardens of their own.

Information Briefing:Bees, Gardening & Cities

What on Earth? Bees
Andrea Quigley and Paulina Morgan
QED
The author and illustrator of the latest in the ‘What On Earth?’ series offer a cross-curricular approach to a fascinating and vitally important insect, the bee.
It’s packed with fascinating information, interesting things to investigate, art and craft activities, poems, stories – I had a good laugh over the folk tale from Thailand telling ‘When bees were friends with elephants’; there’s even a recipe for delicious honey flapjacks – mmm!
Most pertinent though, since our native bees are under threat, are the projects which aim to increase potential nesting spots: for bumble bees ‘Make a bumble bee ‘n’ bee’; and ‘Build a solitary bee home’ for bees such as the leafcutter and mason bees to nest in.
Although each spread is chock full of information, the presentation with copious bright, attractive and sometimes amusing, illustrations, speech bubbles and factual snippets on bold colour blocks is never overwhelming.

This stylish book is certainly worth adding to a family book collection or primary school topic box.

The Children’s Garden
Carole Lexa Schaefer and Pierr Morgan
Little Bigfoot
This appealing story inspired by a real community garden for children in Seattle is a debut book for both author and illustrator.
A sign on the gate welcomes readers in to ‘listen, see, smell, touch – even taste’
and to read this book really does feel like a multi-sensory experience.
We start with the deep, dark soil, ‘rich with rotted grass, apple peels and onion skins,’ into which the children dig and then scatter their seeds. They pat, water …

and weed and soon are rewarded by the appearance of tiny sprouting plants.
It’s not long before the whole space is filled with a profusion of ‘tomato clusters’, ‘sunflower stands’, ‘green bean tents’, ‘strawberry clusters’ and more.

Peppermint to smell and chew.

A rich reward for their labours but also a place to have fun and to relax.

Imaginative language and bold, bright illustrations and splendid seed packet endpapers make this portrait of a bountiful co-operative gardening project a delight.
I’d like to think it will inspire adults to help youngsters seek out similar local projects or failing that, contemplate starting such an enterprise for children in their own neighbourhood.

In Focus: Cities
Libby Walden et al.
360 Degrees
You can be a globetrotter without moving from your sofa in what is very much a bits and pieces look at ten of the world’s most iconic cities – their culture, their character and their civilisations – landmarks and artefacts of cultures ancient and modern (largely hidden beneath the gate fold flaps).
Starting with New York, and encompassing Tokyo,



Paris, Rome, Moscow, Istanbul, Sydney, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro and London, each of the destinations has a different illustrator, ensuring that the diversity of the cities is heightened.
The author manages to pack a great deal of information into each fold-out spread so that readers will find themselves becoming engrossed in such unlikely topics as tulips and Turkish delight (Istanbul), or catacombs and cancan dancing (Paris).
An appetite whetter and an engrossing one at that!

I’ve signed the charter  

That’s Not a Daffodil!

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That’s Not a Daffodil
Elizabeth Honey
Allen & Unwin
When Tom’s next-door neighbour, Mr Yilmaz,  calls with a crumpled bag containing what looks somewhat like an onion, but Mr Yilmaz assures him is a daffodil, the boy is more than a little sceptical. “Let’s plant it and see,” Mr Yilmaz suggests, so they do, in a large pot. Tom waits and waits but nothing much happens; He calls it a desert so Mr Y. suggests making it rain and he does …

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Still, nothing seems to be happening, but they keep watching until Tom declares “a green beak” is peeping through. Inevitably, – as beaks do – it opens up; and becomes a green- fingered hand.

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Mr Yilmaz continues visiting, bearing gifts of various fruits and vegetables, Tom’s curiosity growing along with the plant all the while as it becomes “Grandpa’s hairs in the wind”, “a wet rocket”, needs the assistance of “the plant ambulance” when Mr Yilmaz’s grandchildren accidentally knock over the pot in play; and then after some TLC, shines forth as a “street light”, heralding spring.

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What though, does young Tom see when the bud finally bursts forth in bloom …
Wonderfully playful, uplifting and full of hope, this beautiful story introduces so much – notions of good neighbourliness, diversity, respectfulness and a whole lot of learning about gardening, and growth – not only of the flower but also of a special friendship. At the same time it interweaves imaginative notions in the form of metaphor and all this through the eyes of a young child.
The author’s gorgeously warm, soft-focus illustrations in, I think, watercolour and oil pastel, exude warmth and a joie-de-vivre.
A perfect springtime share for early years teachers and parents of pre-schoolers.

Solo Reading Delights

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Lottie and Dottie Grow Pumpkins
Claire Burgess, illustrated by Marijke van Veldhoven
Orion Children’s Books
Green-fingered siblings, Lottie and little sis. Dottie, are once again inspired by their reading – it’s Cinderella this time – and off they go to the garden centre to buy pumpkin seeds. With just three in the packet that’s one for each of the sisters and one for their pal Basil (also a keen gardener). As the pumpkin seeds germinate and grow, Dottie muses over possibilities …

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and soon it’s time to replant the rapidly enlarging pumpkins outside where they continue growing and growing until …

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And with such a wonderful crop, come the autumn, there’s plenty for soup making, carving and more …

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and of course there are plenty of seeds for next year’s sowing.
A tasty treat for ‘just taking off’ readers and with those amusing illustrations, it also makes a great read aloud, especially for one to one sharing.

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Belinda and the Bears Go Shopping
Kaye Umansky, illustrated by Chris Jevons
Orion Children’s Books
Kaye Umansky puts a delicious new slant on the Three Bears story when young Belinda persuades Mummy and Daddy Bear to convert their attic into a bedroom for Baby Bear. It’s rather bare though

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and the trouble is, the Bear family are used to the woods: going furniture shopping in the village will take a whole lot of organising and once they get to the junk shop, Baby Bear needs a bit of persuading to concentrate on the job in hand …

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Luckily, Mr Musty has everything the Bears need and even offers to deliver their purchases free of charge; but when it comes to Baby Bear’s first bedtime in his new room, there’s a bit of a hiccup. Fortunately however, Belinda knows just what to do to make sure her small bear friend sleeps soundly.
With delightful illustrations by Chris Jevons on every page (and instructions to make a Robin Hood hat like Baby Bear’s at the end), what more can just independent readers ask. Some green paper and a feather perhaps …

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A Little Guide to Gardening

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A Little Guide to Gardening
Jo Elworthy and Eleanor Taylor
Eden Project
For this, the third ‘Little Guide to’ we have a new artist in Eleanor Taylor.
The chatty narrative opens with an introductory invitation ‘Imagine a special piece of earth where you can sow, plant and grow anything you like.‘ I can envisage some youngsters reading this and wanting to plant enormous exotic jungly gardens and others thinking of a patch of wild flowers, both of which are possible for the narration continues ‘A garden can be very big. A garden can be very small. A garden can be up high. A garden can be just for you. Or somewhere to share … You can make your garden here, there or anywhere. You don’t even need a flowerpot!’ Then, after a brief introduction to plants in general, Jo Elworthy takes readers through the seasons from spring to winter, talking about the changes through the year , listing jobs to do and suggesting activities. These are taken up in more detail later in the book when Eleanor Taylor’s delicate, winsome illustrations animate the step-by-step instructions and the wealth of other horticultural information …

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There’s much more besides though, including pages on some of the garden visitors – butterflies,

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birds and soil-dwelling creatures – all beautifully illustrated and each one a mini work of art in itself. So much to inspire young, potential gardeners: who wouldn’t want to make a den like this one?

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Or this one among the peas and beans?

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There are some delicious historical snippets such as ‘ROSEMARY Rosmarinus officinalis: Victorians put rosemary in the handles of their walking sticks. They used to sniff them thinking they kept diseases away.’

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And Dill – It was called ‘meeting house seed’ by the settlers in North America as children chewed it in sermons to stop them from feeling hungry. Goodness knows how long the sermons were then!

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Readers are also provided with blank pages at the back of the book to keep a seasonal record (I’d be hesitant to write in such a lovely book but that’s down to lucky owners to decide for themselves.) And there’s a tick list for recording plants grown.
The previous Little Guides – Little Guide to Trees and The Little Guide to Wild Flowers were illustrated by Charlotte Voake and this one maintains the high standard she set therein; indeed I notice the font used here is the one devised by Charlotte.
This is definitely one for the family bookshelf.

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