Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Book review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt Book Poster Image
Evocative gardening book makes nature come alive.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Gardening methods and wisdom; types of bugs and plant life and their care; seasonal changes.

Positive Messages

Appreciation, enthusiasm, and awe for nature; seasonal changes; plant and vegetable care; respect for living things; patience for nature's process; enthusiasm for learning.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Simply drawn but powerfully present characters. Nana is wise, patient, and mentoring. Granddaughter frolics, plays, and respects the knowledge being handed down to her. Grandpa makes dinner and calls them in for autumn soup.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kate Messner's Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is a wildly enthusiastic, gorgeously illustrated book about gardening that uses evocative language to explore the teeming worlds above and below the ground throughout the seasons. It's chock-full of information about bugs, vegetables, plant life, seasonal changes, and gardening wisdom, with a strong nod to intergenerational mentoring. Perfect for preschoolers and kindergartners beginning to grasp a world of facts, figures, and wonderment.

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What's the story?

Read along as Nana and her granddaughter tend to the garden throughout the seasons. While the little one languishes in the hot sun in need of a cool drink, earthworms just below the surface are digging deeper into the shade to take refuge. From rain showers to extreme heat to the harvest and the first snowfall, throughout every season watch as nature and humans play a unique part in working and caring for the land, and explore the bustling activity that defines every natural phase of growth.

Is it any good?

UP IN THE GARDEN AND DOWN IN THE DIRT is a marvel of language and illustration. The sing-song rhymes and evocative mixed-media illustrations make nature pop with every season. For preschoolers or kindergartners who have a new understanding of the exciting new world around them, the language here crackles, and the illustrations show the teeming life in the dirt they're just beginning to understand. It also fosters an excitement about the natural phases of the seasons and reinforces the idea that everything has its own unique pattern and cycle in the world.

There's a strongly positive intergenerational relationship of mentoring and respect between elder and granddaughter, as well as an enthusiasm for nature, gardening, outside play, and respect for all living things that kids will find contagious.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt portrays gardening. Does it make it sound more exciting than you thought? Why, or why not? How does the author do that?

  • Do you like planting vegetables? What vegetables or plants have you planted or cared for?

  • Which season is your favorite, and why?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and growing things

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