Posted in Uncategorized

A greener, gentler world: The Green Giant

The Green Giant, by Katie Cottle, (July 2019, Pavilion Children’s Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-84365-430-8

Ages 4-7

A little girl named Bea and her dog, Iris, spend summer vacation at Bea’s grandpa’s home in the countryside. One day, Iris chases a cat, sending Bea chasing Iris; the two discover a greenhouse packed with lush, green plants… and one of them is an honest-to-goodness giant! The friendly green giant befriends Bea, and tells her that living in the city was just too much: “…the city got more grey and it was hard to breathe. I had to leave”. Here in the magical greenhouse, the giant and all the plants have room to grow, and it shows: the illustrations depict bright, anthropomorphic foliage with smiling faces and outstretched branches and leaves. The greenhouse becomes Bea’s and Iris’s refuge for the summer, but all too soon, it’s time to go home. The giant hands Bea a gift of sparkling seeds, which she sprinkles outside her apartment window. A beautiful transformation takes place, turning the drab grey of the city into a green, yellow, and orange paradise! Will the giant return one day to see his friend’s handiwork?

The Green Giant is a lovely story about taking care of our world and encouraging green spaces. Katie Cottle takes an intuitive approach to talking green with younger children by creating a friendly green giant to explain that the city’s crowded, grey spaces made it too difficult to live – but, in an optimistic spark for the future, gives her seeds that will turn – maybe thanks to the greenhouse’s magic? – the concrete landsdcape into a living outdoor green space! The artwork is bright, bold, and primarily uses greens, oranges, browns, yellows, and blues, all coming to life from the a stark white background. Bea appears to be biracial; she is a child of color, and her grandfather presents as Caucasian.

Pair this with Ingrid Chabbert’s The Last Tree for an environmentally-focused read-aloud. You can also pair with Lois Ehlert’s classic, The Leaf Man, and invite kids to use leaves to make their own Green Giants and Leaf Men. Or invite parents to a container planting program, and encourage personal green spaces. Read an interview with author Katie Cottle on the Gardening Know How’s Blog, and visit her author webpage for more of her illustration work.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

New York City gets a park: A Green Place to Be

A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park, by Ashley Benham Yazdani, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763696955

Ages 7-10

This beautiful and lushly illustrated history of Central Park starts with the land’s beginnings, as a barren area where farm animals and industrial waste left much to be desired, and the design contest devised by architect Calvert Vaux – a contest that he also entered with every intention of winning. A Green Place to Be follows Vaux’s and park superintendent Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision, focusing on their planning, execution, and invitation to artists to join in the effort. The winter of 1858 saw the first park of the park, the Lake, open for visitors; in the summer of 1859, the woodsy Ramble joined the landscape, followed by the Children’s District.

Illustrated in watercolor and pencil, this is a loving tribute to an iconic green space and the men and women who created it. Back matter includes profiles of both Olmstead and Vaux, and a Q&A on spaces within the park. Sharp-eyed readers will love returning to the illustrations again and again to find squirrels, bridges, and other affectionately placed details. There is an author’s note and bibliography for further reading.

A Green Place to Be is a love letter to New York’s green spaces and creativity. Central Park’s website has extensive information about the park, including a calendar of events and links to social media. Planetizen has a good article on teaching urban planning to preschoolers; this could be a fun activity where kids can learn and create their own green spaces! National Geographic has a fun Design a Park activity for middle grade kids, and the STAR Library Network has a printable Design a Park activity that will work with large groups of kids. It’s a fun springtime program!