Book review: Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, by Kate Messner, art by Christopher Silas Neal

Messner Up in the GardenMessner, Kate. Art by Christopher Silas Neal. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. Chronicle Books. 2015. $16.99. 9781452119366. Unp. Ages 4-10. P7Q9

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is a successful presentation of the most important component of home gardening—a healthy natural ecosystem. The story follows a young protagonist and her Nana as they coexist alongside their backyard critter counterparts. We are introduced to all of the helpful beasts who inhabit our gardens across the seasons. Without the use of chemicals or much equipment, our narrator and Nana are able to demonstrate how a vigorous community of insects, birds, and reptiles work together to support a thriving garden. This underground biota is revealed through dynamically illustrated cross-sections by which we can observe the garden from above and below. Following the story, Messner included a very useful illustrated glossary that gives the reader a deeper understanding of each animal met in the story. This book will be appreciated by any child with a backyard, community garden, or houseplant. May 2015 review by Lillian Curanzy.

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