Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard

Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
Illustrator:  Priscilla Lamont 
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Random House, 2012   ISBN: 978-0517709900

It is spring, and Alice and her little brother Pete are out in the garden with their parents. The sun is warming the earth, and it is time for the members of the family to plant their garden.

After their father has prepared the earth, Alice plants zucchini, radish and carrots seeds in her “spot,” and Pete plants lettuce, pea, and beet seeds. The children water their seeds carefully, and then they wait for the plants to come up, but nothing happens, which is rather frustrating. Finally, after days of waiting, Pete notices that “Tiny sprouts are poking up through the soil.”

It isn’t long before the seedlings are a lot bigger, and they become “sprouts.” The children’s mother plants the seedlings that she raised in pots in the house, and she also plants “potatoes the size of marbles.”

Just when the lettuces and radishes are ready to eat, Alice notices that something has been eating the veggies. She finds a place to hide and lies very still. Soon enough, Alice sees a little brown rabbit munching on some of the tender lettuce leaves. Honey, the family cat, is not far, and she quickly chases the rabbit away.

As the garden grows, Alice sees that the plants she and her family planted are part of all kinds of food chains. Caterpillars eat the plants, and then other animals (including the family chickens) eat the caterpillars. A beetle that is enjoying eating the leaves of the potato plants is caught by a spider, which is then spotted and eaten by a robin.

In this clever picture book, the author shows her young readers how gardens grow and how they are a wonderful places to observe nature. The two pet chickens in the story provide often amusing commentaries, and they give readers lots of supplemental information about how plants grow and how food chains work. Priscilla Lamont’s delightful illustrations not only complement the story of Alice’s family garden, but they also show children intimate details of what happens in a garden.