Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

It's Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden

It's Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden

George Ancona
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick, 2013   ISBN: 978-0763653927

When George Ancona first heard about school gardens he set off to visit some of the schools in his hometown in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This was how he found Acequia Madre Elementary School, a school where all the students spend part of their school day working in the school garden. For “the better part of a year” George sat in the garden observing and photographing the children at work, and in this book you will find his account of that year in words and photos.

   The garden was the brainchild of a third grade teacher and with the help of parents, school employees, Miss Sue the gardener and her husband Will (who designed the garden), and several college students, it became a reality.

   In the spring the children begin the process of creating a garden. They gather outdoors or in the greenhouse to look through seed catalogues and to discuss what needs to be done. Seeds are planted in little pots in the greenhouse and when it is warm enough outdoors, the seedlings are planted into prepared beds. The beds are mulched with straw and the plants watered using rainwater that has been collected.

   As they work, the children learn about the insects and other animals who make the garden their home. Even when the school is closed in the afternoons, on the weekends, and during vacations, the garden is a busy place. Students come there to work with their family members and their friends. They come together to work, but they also create music together and when the summer heat ripens the tomatoes and other fruits and veggies, they come together to harvest and to cook.

   At the end of summer, schools opens again and the children set about completing the harvest. There are so many delicious things to eat that the gardeners host several lunches that are “festivals of food and fun.”

   George Ancona has a gift for taking superb photos and for recognizing and appreciating important moments in the lives of the people he is photographing. Using these gifts George Ancona has created a book that takes us through a garden year, capturing moments during that year that were special. Readers will quickly come to appreciate that the school and the community that it serves is very unique, and the garden that the children and adults create together serves not only to teach children about gardening, but it also serves to unite people and to connect them with nature. It also gives the members of the community the ability to have fun together while they are growing food that they can all can eat and enjoy.