Jack's Garden

Valerie Bang-Jensen and Mark Lubkowitz

Be sure to check out Books in Bloom LIVE! which is a video feature of our column writers, Mark and Valerie, reading this delightful children's book.

Title: Jack's Garden

Author: Henry Cole

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Grade Level: 1-4

Extension Objectives: Students will discover how terminology can affect the readers' understanding of the content within the book.

Right Side Box: 

Be sure to check out Books in Bloom LIVE! which is a video feature of our column writers, Mark and Valerie, reading this delightful children's book.

Jack's Garden
Henry Cole
Greenwillow Books
Grade Level: 
Extension Objectives: 
Students will discover how terminology can affect the readers' understanding of the content within the book.

How the story grows

Jack plants a garden in the spring, and the book follows the development of his garden over the growing season. From a literary perspective, two key elements make this book worth reading: the cumulative text and the informative illustrations. Keen readers will notice the two ways that the color-pencil  illustrations in this book offer information; each page contains a central, framed box and within it Jack’s garden forms pictorially showing one growing season in a  straightforward, sequential manner. Illustrations around the border edge of this box are done in a style reminiscent of a field guide, and show details and close-ups that expand the content. These border illustrations provide the opportunity to delve more deeply into aspects of the natural world such as insects, plant development, cloud formation, and floral diversity.   

This cumulative tale about Jack’s garden invites multiple readings, and definitely some fun with choral reading. Borrowing from the pattern of the classic tale, “The House That Jack Built,” the text builds by adding a line on each page, incorporating gardening vocabulary describing the sequence of the growing garden which is shown in the accompanying illustration. This style lends itself to reading aloud, and helps new readers to recognize the text-illustration connection, offering reading support through the use of repetition and predictability. The length and complexity of the text parallels the growth of the garden.  In the spring, the garden is described in a single sentence, “This is the garden that Jack planted.” Over the summer, the garden grows, and in a synchronous manner, the text lengthens. 

The biological backstory

This is truly a gardener’s book with illustrations and text that accurately represent the key biological and gardening events of a growing season. The story, and more specifically the illustrations within the border, can be used to explore the fundamental elements of plant growth, gardening, and the plant life cycle. For example, readers learn what is required to start a garden and that plants need soil, water, and light to grow. Additionally, the plant life cycle is beautifully and accurately illustrated as Jack’s garden moves from seeds to seedlings to mature, flowering plants which produce the next generation. On this merit alone, this book is useful; however, what we really love is how Jack’s Garden provides a glimpse into the complexity of nature. This idea is developed through the illustrations around the borders. For example, in late summer, there is an image of Jack’s garden with a ladybug (sometimes called ladybird beetle) and drawings of different types of ladybugs around the border. Readers can learn that “ladybug” is a generic term for a group of insects with almost 5,000 varieties. This style of moving from the generic to the specific helps convey that the natural world is both diverse and complex. Implicit in the border illustrations is that these same creatures, or processes, are present, although unseen, in Jack’s garden.

Looking Ahead

Our next column will feature Grandpa Green, by Lane Smith, (Roaring Book Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-1596436077), an award winning book about a child who shares milestones of his grandfather's life, as the grandfather begins to forget them. 

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Last updated on 04/23/2014
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