I believe that children’s books are perfect starting places for field trips. We’ve been inspired to visit places and learn more through many of the things that we first discovered on library and bookstore shelves. This past month was filled with these book and place excursions.
GROWING AN ARTIST: The Story of a Landscaper and His Son
By John Parra (author and illustrator)
Simon and Schuster: 2022
The story begins…
“Are you ready, mijo?” Papi asks. He smiles as I carry an armful of tools and supplies.”
In this charming autobiographical picture book, we are introduced to Juanito who takes his sketchbook along as he accompanies his landscape contractor father and assistant as they work to create beautiful outdoor environments.
Through the day, Juanito is inspired by the nursery, the dump where yard waste becomes mulch, and the yards of various clients. Juanito draws the flowers, trees, and vines he sees. Their final stop is at a home with an overgrown yard that the owners want to transform. Juanito is inspired to develop and draw the design and he sets to work creating a design which becomes a very special garden. Juanito decides to “use his art to tell the stories of hardworking, passionate people who make the world more beautiful.” This is a story about the bond between a father and son, the rewards of hard work, and the importance of using one’s talents to improve the world.
The colorful, stylized illustrations capture the details of the developing gardens. The inclusion of Spanish dialogue highlights the warmth and love of this family and their associates.
The author’s afternote explains more about his father who, as a child, worked alongside his family as a migrant farmworker in California’s Central Valley, served in the army, and eventually began his own landscaping company. The author tells us more about his own journey to becoming a children’s author and illustrator who beautifully brings untold stories to young readers.
The Fresno Art Museum currently has the original art from GROWING AN ARTIST on display and I was fortunate to be able to attend an event where John Parra spoke. I was so moved to hear more from this award-winning author, illustrator, and educator. The collection will be on display until June 30, 2024.
I now have signed copies in both English and Spanish:
This is why we need to encourage our children. John Parra drew these pictures when he was in kindergarten:
This book pairs well with a visit to the San Diego Botanic Gardens. We spent the day wandering the four miles through 29 themed gardens, a conservatory, the largest bamboo forest in North America, and up to a stunning view of the Pacific. I especially enjoyed the Mexican Gardens with a topiary mariachi band and the under the sea garden with plants that look like sea anemones, corals, and seaweeds.
Another book that pairs with a recent field trip is:
SEASON FOR STONES
By Nikki Bergstresser (author) and Kelly O’Neill (illustrator)
Brandylane Publishers 2020
The story begins…
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
Tilly loves autumn and the feel of leaves beneath her feet. On her walk home from school, she passes her neighbor’s house. The yard had once been tidy and bursting with flowers, But now, it looks sad and lonely. Tilly hasn’t seen Mrs. Miller outside lately, tending to her garden or feeding the birds. Tilly knows her neighbor isn’t well.
Tilly’s concern for her neighbor prompts her to figure out practical ways to help. With her love of nature and words, she realizes that she can help and encourage her neighbor. When others see her actions, they also find ways to help.
This is a lovely story about inter-generational friendship. It is so great to see an example where young and old share the same values and interests. The bright and kid-friendly illustrations show Tilly’s growth as a character as she realizes that she can make a difference.
While we were in San Diego, my brother told me about his high school friend, Dave. It seems that Dave was bothered by an empty state-owned lot that was overgrown with weeds and filled with trash. So, he decided to clean it up, but the state didn’t want him to. Did he stop? Not Dave. He created paths and planted succulents.
Dave continued cleaning at night and one morning he found a rock painted with a heart. He thought it would be wonderful to add more rocks. He supplied rocks and paint and now there are more than 7,000 painted rocks on display.
Dave happened to be there when I stopped by. Yes, I painted a rock and plan to go back and add more. Here’s the link to Dave’s Rock Garden website.
My brother wrote a song about Dave and his rock garden.
I hope you enjoy it.