Title: The Wind's Garden (2001)
Author: Bethany Roberts
Publisher: New York Henry Holt
Grade Level: K-2nd
Extension Objectives: Students will create a sequence of events to illustrate the development and dispersal of seeds.
How the story grows
In this comparative tale, a girl plants a garden and the wind plants one, too. In simple, first-person narrative, the girl describes the development of the two gardens through a growing season including their need for water, sun, and soil. Use of specialized words like parched, weeds, and swirled create a knowledge base for gardening. The text and illustrations work together as the font size grows along with the flowers.
Greenberg's cheerful, naïf-like gouache illustrations present the differences in the two gardens. The wind is represented by bold white spirals; all other objects and characters are easily identified. The color choices are bright and believable as they parallel the early spring green to the lush rich greens of August. Close-ups and birds' eye views invite readers to gauge the size, shape, and progress of each garden as the flowers mature.
The author's note includes suggestions for growing one's own garden with flowers that are quick to germinate. Tips are also included for observing “The Wind's Garden.” Preschoolers through second graders will quickly grasp the comparison between natural seed dispersal and cultivation. Older readers may gain an appreciation for the wildflowers they observe in their daily lives.
The biological backstory
From a biological perspective this is a rich text with two central themes. The first is that the plants in the unnamed girl's garden have the same needs as the plants in the wind's garden. The author uses illustrations and text to show that plants – regardless of which garden they are in – require water, space, and light to grow. A second and more pronounced theme is the comparison between a garden and nature. Once again the use of nuanced and accurate illustrations coupled with carefully chosen text illustrates the key points. For example, the girl's garden requires a human to orderly plant the seeds as opposed to the wind's garden which is randomly colonized by seeds sailing on the wind using their dry and wispy fruits. As the book progresses, the contrast between the two gardens becomes more apparent as shown by the wind's garden's apparent lack of order, increased species diversity and larger biomass. Whereas both gardens are presented as aesthetically pleasing, the wind's garden is presented as richer in color, animals, and insects. This is, of course, true to the science in that most gardens require a larger energy input and yet meadows are often more species rich, diverse, and biologically productive than a typical garden.
Next month's column will feature Jack's Garden, by Henry Cole, (Greenwillow Books 1997, ISBN: 978-0688152833), a cumulative story chockfull of visual and textual gardening information.