Over our kids’ Spring break, my husband had a work trip to Las Vegas, so we decided to tag along. And as we told people we were taking our kids to Vegas, they looked at us funny. The desert? For Spring break? Vegas? With 4 kids? So I started to ask around…what the heck does one do with four young kids in Vegas? Every person I talked to said that we absolutely must visit the Bellagio Hotel. And boy, were they right. It was the one thing we did that the adults and children enjoyed equally. Rob and I weren’t as keen on tasting Coca-Colas from around the world, or the massive wall of M&Ms. (can you say sugar-crash?)

cola

And the kids didn’t find the McCarran International Airport quite as riveting as their aviation-loving Dad.

airport

But the Bellagio Conservatory? Oh my.

Bellagio

It was inspiring, especially in Spring. Oh, how I wish I could garden. In the past, I have tried to will my thumbs green by planting things here and there, but those poor plants have all succumbed to the same dreadful fate. It has not been pretty. So I too, like the little girl in this adorable picture book, have spent hours upon hours dreaming of my perfect garden.

book cover

It is a garden where flowers, fruit and vegetables grow in abundance, all year long. It is a garden where plants water themselves and never die. It is a garden where snails don’t exist, and weeding is unnecessary. And while we’re ordering up the impossible, I’ll also take a tree that grows chocolate-chip cookies, and a pond filled with vanilla lattes.

Written and Illustrated by: Kevin Henkes (Special tidbit for you! Have you ever wondered how the heck to say “Henkes?” Well, he’ll tell you how, right here.)

Published By: Greenwillow Books, February 2010

Opening: “My mother has a garden. I’m her helper. I water. I weed. And I chase away the rabbits so that they don’t eat all the lettuce. It’s hard work, and my mother’s garden is very nice, but if I had a garden…”

Synopsis: A girl helps out in her mother’s garden, but in the garden of her imagination, there are chocolate rabbits, tomatoes as big as beach balls, flowers that change color, and seashells. How does your garden grow?

How to use this book with your kids: At this point, it is no secret that I am a huge fan of Kevin Henkes! In MY GARDEN, we never know this little girl’s name, but we do see her whimsical nature in the things she chooses for her garden. The text is simple and sparse, making it a great choice for the preschool aged set, or for a bedtime read on a night when you are too tired to turn one more page. And the illustrations are, as usual from Mr. Henkes, just wonderful.

If you want to go a little deeper, or even use this in a springtime or gardening curriculum, HarperCollins has a packet of resources to go with this book. It includes a coloring page and worksheet where you count the different things she has in her garden. You can download it here. The activity I like most when I read this book with my kids is to have them design their own gardens. What would you plant? Could your flowers change colors? What “good, unusual things” would grow in your garden? Which vegetables would you make invisible? And this is a book that just begs for an art project to go along with it.

So, what would grow in YOUR GARDEN?

Amy Dixon

Amy Dixon

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Growing up as one of seven siblings, the only peace and quiet Amy Dixon ever got was inside the pages of a book. Now a writer, runner, and mom, her first picture book, MARATHON MOUSE, was published in November of 2012. She writes from her home in Clovis, California, where she lives with her four little inspirations and her marathon-running husband, Rob.