Favorite Gardening Books for Kids

Spring has officially begun, and the garden beckons. Do you garden with your kids? If they’re not interested, try a gardening book just for kids: invite them into this marvelous experience!

Initially, everything seems a mess of dry, dead-looking twigs. Clear away the old growth, though, and signs emerge everywhere, revealing new life that’s been growing quietly out of sight: tiny new leaves and buds on branches, small shoots poking up through the earth, some daffodils already blooming. Tending a garden—whether ornamental or edible—is a wonderful way to spend time with our children. Somehow, getting our hands dirty—conversation starts to flow.

Myriad spiritual analogies come to mind:

  • dealing with sin in our own lives (and in our children’s) so that the quiet work of the Spirit is able to flourish—like we deal with the old wintry remains in a garden
  • confronting little sins—like little weeds—before they cause more harm
  • remembering that the Spirit’s work on a person’s heart might be unseen at first like those tiny new leaves and buds which have been quietly growing
  • choosing our companions wisely; creeping weeds take over quickly!
  • pruning is necessary—especially for the plants we cherish most
  • strong root systems yield healthy plants (spiritually, too)

My children and I have rich conversation when we’re engaged in quiet work alongside one another. If you need more inspiration, consider Scripture passages such as Psalm 1, John 15, and the Parable of the Sower.

To prime the pump, as it were, here is a selection of favorite gardening books for kids of all ages. I credit my own love of digging in the dirt to my childhood fascination with The Secret Garden. Even today, as I marvel at the Lord’s creation in those tiny new leaves, I also “hear” Colin, Mary, and Dickon pronounce a dead looking plant “wick!” May your own spiritual lives be “wick.”

Favorite Gardening Books for Kids

Favorite Gardening Books for Kids: A Redeemed Reader Book List

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert (Sandpiper, 1992; originally published 1988). Bright collage-style illustrations complete with clear labels show preschoolers how these marvelous plants grow, from seed/bulb to flower! Toddler-preschool (and available in sturdy board book format); see also Growing Vegetable Soup. (Read our review of Growing Vegetable Soup.)

Jo MacDonald Had a Garden by Mary Quattlebaum and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant (Dawn Publications, 2002). This is a read-aloud that’s also a sing-along! You guessed it: to the tune of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Sweet and perfect for toddlers and preschoolers; look for board book format for better durability. Read our review.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow, 2010). What would YOU plant in your garden if you could plant anything you want? Chocolate rabbits? Enormous tomatoes (or your personal favorite vegetable)? Fun for preschoolers with plenty of imagination.

Mortimer’s First Garden by Karma Wilson (McElderry, 2009). A sweet story of young Mortimer who bravely plants a sunflower seed instead of eating it. He prays for the Lord to bless his “garden.” Try this with kindergartners; have some sunflower seeds on hand to plant!

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin Stead (Roaring Book Press, 2012). A quiet book about the wonders of new life in springtime that invites continued contemplation; good for preschool-early elementary. Read our review.

Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin (Peachtree, 2011). A book about how the natural “wild” areas get “planted” by birds, wind, passersby, and other elements, its strong suit is Halperin’s detailed step-by-step illustrations alongside the edges of her larger images. Preschool and up.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (Chronicle, 2017). We can see what’s coming up in the garden, but what’s going on under the surface? A picture book exploration of above and below the ground in a garden, throughout the year. Preschool-elementary.

Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens (Harcourt Brace, 1995). Hilarious trickster tale that involves gardening. Highly recommended. All ages; read our review.

The Goodbye Cancer Garden by Janna Matthies and illustrated by Kristi Valiant (Albert Whitman, 2011). A young girl suggests planting a family garden to help her mother recover from cancer. Upbeat and with a happy ending. Ages 4-8. Read our review.

Anno’s Magic Seeds by Misumasa Anno (Puffin, 1995). Perfect for elementary-aged children, this tale shows how much a single seed can provide while asking the reader to solve some math word problems (Anno’s clever illustrations are a big help—note the groupings of 10).

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997). One of my all-time favorites, this Caldecott honor book tells how a young girl brings beauty into the lives of others through her rooftop garden. All ages. Read our review.

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Mark Hearld (Candlewick, 2012). A compilation of poetry with a few seasonal activities—arranged seasonally, so you’ll want to look at it again in summer, fall, and winter! Cut paper illustrations are bright and striking. My favorite spring poem is “Dandelions.” This is a good poetry anthology for children ages 4-8.

Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy (Workman, 1999). Ready to get your hands dirty? Check out this practical guide for all sorts of gardening activities! Best for elementary school; read our review. See also Sunflower Houses, also by Lovejoy.

Handsprings by Douglas Florian (Greenwillow, 2006) is a delightful collection of spring-themed poems and paintings by Florian. Excellent for elementary students (and up!).

Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel (Harper, 1972). While this entire book is a gem, the story titled “Garden” is especially apt as Toad struggles to “help” his seeds grow. Recommended for newly independent readers. (If you’re a Frog and Toad fan, you might check out the other volumes; several have spring-themed stories in them.)

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (first published in 1911; used/digital copies are easily found). As mentioned, the book I credit with fueling my own love of gardening and the great outdoors. This book is lovely in audiobook format, too! All ages as a read aloud; ages 8 and up as an independent read.

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser (Clarion, 2019). Book 2 in the popular Vanderbeekers books shows the Vanderbeekers turning a vacant lot into a community garden. All ages as a read aloud. Read our starred review.

Lucy and the Green Man by Linda Newbery (Random House, 2010). Mixing pagan tradition with possible Christian symbolism, this makes an interesting read aloud for fantasy lovers. Ages 8 and up. Read our review.

The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins (HMH, 2010). A funny, engaging, and warm-hearted story of a boy who ends up caring for an orchard without realizing what he’s gotten himself into. Recruiting young family members, he manages to succeed. Makes a great read aloud! Ages 8 and up. Read our starred review.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (Yearling, 2005). Not a book about gardening, per se, but the father is a gardener and much of this book takes place in and around a garden. Wonderful story, winner of the National Book Award, and worthy of a family read aloud. Perfect for middle grade readers (4th-8th) to tackle on their own. Read our review.

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Related Reading from Redeemed Reader:

What are YOUR favorite gardening-themed books? I’d love to add to my list!

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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  1. Connie on March 28, 2013 at 11:30 am

    The Moffat’s series (Eleanor Estes) is another great family to read about. Not specifically about gardening, but the pre WW I setting means that life is closely attuned to the seasons and nature. I can specifically think of a peripheral character who picks the dandelions from neighbors yards to use the leaves for cooking. Couldn’t do that these days – we have to plant dandelions in our garden for harvesting. One of favorite stories within the stories is “Rufus’ Beans.” Not sure which books it’s in, but the whole series is worth reading.

  2. Calgary Lawn Care on March 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Frog and Toad Together is a lovely book, one of my favourite to read to my nephews. They love it too, of course, which is why I like it so much. Thanks for the list.

  3. Betsy Farquhar on March 28, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for the reminder about The Moffats, Connie! Actually, I have picked dandelion leavess from my yard before for a salad! It’s a short window in early spring, though.

  4. emily on March 28, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks, Betsy, for this lovely list! You and Megan are such “lovely list” makers that it’s such a treat to have you in our space. Thanks again for joining us! My oldest wants to be a farmer when she grows up, so I really appreciate the discussion suggestions to go along with the books.

  5. Calgary Snow Removal & Lawn Care on November 5, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    Mortimer’s First Garden is my favorite on the list. I always read it to my kids and one day hopefully they will work for our family’s landscaping company 😉 thank you for sharing this list, I will buy some books from this list to refresh my kids library !

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