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Grow Your Own Adventure with The Lil’ Sprouts Book Club!

Lil’ Sprouts Book Club is a monthly Garden Collage feature where we spotlight nature- and garden-related books for kids age 2 and up that encourage green education. The books are designed to evoke the core mission of Garden Collage: to bring the garden (and nature) into people’s lives.

Below, we’ve highlighted two books for the month of September: one for kids age 4-7, another for the “older crowd” of 10 and up. In each story, the reader is encouraged to venture out into the world and to rethink how they relate to the natural environment around them. In The Great Big Green, this is done with attention to detail and by provoking curiosity. In Dreamwood, magic and fantasy are the facilitators.

Check out our synopsis of each book along with select activities, which we encourage every Lil’ Sprout to explore. Participants in the Lil Sprouts Book Club are encouraged to email hello@gardencollage.com with examples of their work, projects, or answers to the discussion questions for each book. Each month, we will select a favorite response and update this post to display the work of a new Lil’ Sprout. Until then: Happy reading!

The Great Big Green by Peggy Gifford and Lisa Desimini

Age Range: 4 – 7

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Using scans of different materials (fabric, marbles, paintings, etc), Peggy Gifford and Lisa Desimini have crafted a richly-textured journey through forests, swamps, mountains, oceans–even your own backyard! As the riddle unfolds, readers are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings and to think about the different shades of green that exist. Pages teem with details, making The Great Big Green an excellent book for tiny tots to read over and over.

Discussion Questions

  • What is your favorite green thing to eat?

Activities

  • Take advantage of the end-of-summer colors and go on a five minute walk outside or in your garden. How many green things do you see? What is the biggest green thing you can find? What is the smallest?
  • Collect leaves and other green things from your garden or neighborhood and make your own paper dolls!
  • Cut up different shades of green from a magazine and make your own page of great big greens!

Sprouts Science

  • Why are plants green?

Plants use sunlight to make energy themselves, the same way you eat vegetables and other plants to help yourself grow. In order to get that sunlight, plants have something called chlorophyll. Sunlight itself is made up of all the colors you can see. But when you see the color of something, you are actually seeing the one color it is not. In plants, chlorophyll absorbs all the other colors except green. If we see a green plant, it means that the plant has absorbed all of the colors of sunlight except the color green. The color green is being reflected back out by the plant, which is why the plant looks green to us.

Dreamwood by Heather Mackey

Age Range: 10 and up

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Heather Mackey’s debut novel tells the story of Lucy Darrington, a curious young girl with a penchant for science and nonconformity, who runs away from a strict boarding school to join her ghost hunter father in the Pacific Northwest. When Lucy arrives at the isolated logging settlement where her father had been working, she discovers he is missing. After retracing his last steps, Lucy realizes her father had been close to a cure for the Rust, a mysterious disease that has been killing off all of the local trees. Moreover, it appears as though her father’s research led him into the Devil’s Thumb, a cursed and forbidden forest filled with unknown dangers. With nothing left to lose, Lucy sets out in search of her father, accompanied by her headstrong friend Pete.

Vividly written and imaginative in scope, Dreamwood uses magic and fantasy to explore the relationship between humans and nature. For Lil’ Sprouts in search of big adventure, Dreamwood is the perfect place to embark.

Discussion Questions

  • What would you do with a piece of dreamwood?
  • Do you think nature is inherently good, evil, or neutral? What might His-sey-ak think about this?
  • What do you think is “alive” in nature? What is not?

Activities

  • Find your favorite tree nearby. What is its story?
  • Draw the dreamwood tree.

Sprouts Science

  • How do trees work?

(Spoilers ahead!) In order to transport the necessary components for life and growth, trees have developed two different system: the xylem and the phloem. The xylem transports nutrients and water (or in the case of the dreamwood, the life force of Lucy’s father) from the roots to the rest of the tree. Xylem tissue dies every year and can be used to date trees, in the form of tree rings. Phloem are responsible for transferring sugars from photosynthesis (in the form of sap) from the tops of the tree to the roots and trunk below. Unlike xylem, phloem does not die and regenerate.

  • Why is animal poop so important to international cuisine?

(Spoilers ahead!) As we discover at the end of the book, the crows in Dreamwood unwittingly carry the Rust’s spores on the tips of their wings, spreading it to new regions and infecting other trees. This process is called passive dispersal and is actually quite important for fancy restaurants. Truffles, a type of fungi, are one of the most prized ingredients in the world. They are also one of the most expensive ingredients on the market: the most common type of truffle (black truffle) costs about $95 per pound. Since truffles grow underground, they rely on animals to help them propagate. Buried in the dirt, truffles begin to emit a strong odor as they develop. When the scent is strong enough, animals will dig up the truffles and consume them. The spores contained in the truffle are not digested, however, and are eventually excreted at a distance from where they were consumed. The truffles then begin to grow in this new place–all thanks to some hungry critters.

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