Reviews /

Grow: A first guide to plants and how to grow them

Authored by Rizanino Reyes
Illustrated by Sara Boccacini Meadows
Published by Magic Cat Publishing

Tagged ,

Grow : A first guide to plants and how to grow them is book about plant heroes and this reason alone had me hooked from the beginning.

It is a book about fifteen different plants and fungi with life-changing powers that you can learn how to grow at home. It opens with a very short introduction from the author, horticulturalist Riz Reyes, telling us how each chapter of the book celebrates just some of the ‘plant heroes’ and their contribution to communities and cultures around the world. Each chapter then, in contrast to this succinct introduction is then very detailed, with four pages of information and illustration (sometimes diagrammatic and often illustrative). The plants are varied and range from wild species to more domestic selections – mint, lettuce, mushroom, daffodil, pineapple, tomato, apple, kale, carrot, aloe vera, tea plant, maple, bamboo, pumpkin and orchid.

There are lots of design features that I love about this book and that make it a really interesting learning experience for children. One aspect is that in the contents page under each plant we are told what they are the hero of. So, for example the mint is the hero of aroma and remedy and I found it a very satisfying activity checking out what the reasons are for their hero status, reading the four pages dedicated to mint to find out all the ways it is aromatic and what it is a remedy for. I didn’t know that the ancient Greeks rubbed mint leaves on their arms to make them smell nice. This would make a great collaborative and interactive reading activity for pairs and groups of children, using skimming and scanning skills. Some answers are easier to find and others not so obvious so it would cater for a range of abilities within an Upper KS2 classroom. It’s also a big book so a good size to look at together.

The other piece of information we are given about the plant on the contents page is the family to which each plant belongs. Again, there are more obvious and less obvious. So orchid is the orchid family, tea is the tea family but did you know that lettuce is part of the daisy family (no, me neither) and there is a page dedicated to introducing you to the family, which also includes sunflowers, artichokes, chrysanthemum, dandelion and of course, daisy. These words remind me to also mention the use of vocabulary throughout the book. There are enough new words to make this a good challenge and vocabulary development for children and there is a small glossary at the back. However, it’s small and the words in bold throughout the book are not all the words in the glossary but are often words that are likely to be new to children, so having a dictionary or an adult to hand would be a good idea.

All the information is written in bitesize small paragraphs and single sentences next to colourful, enticing illustrations, which allows you to dip in and out of the book if you prefer rather than deep reading it all at once. Each four pages follows a similar format: first page is more dedicated to celebrating the plant with colourful illustrations with a few introductory facts; the second page a page full of facts focusing on the unique characteristics of each plant; the third page is ‘meet the family’ and fourth page is ‘a potted history of…’  and a guide to ‘grow your own…’.

Grow is beautifully illustrated by Sara Boccaccini Meadows, full of fascinating facts from horticulturist Riz Reyes, for all ages to stimulate children’s curiosity about plants and with practical advice on how to grow the plants at home from wherever you have space. I learnt so much and it was a great reminder of just how amazing, useful and healing plants are. I don’t think I could ask for more from a book.