friday feast: anna’s garden songs by mary q. steele and lena anderson

Mr. Cornelius Cucumber

While looking for more children’s books illustrated by Lena Anderson, I was happy to discover Anna’s Garden Songs — a whimsical, light-hearted collection of 14 fruit and veggie poems written by Mary Q. Steele.

Garden favorites like peas, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, beets and onions take their place in the sun with playful rhyming verse and Lena’s fanciful pictures. I may as well confess right now that I’ve always had a thing for giant vegetables, so when I saw how Lena fiddled with scale in this book I squealed with delight.🙂

Blond, mostly barefoot, bespectacled Anna is just adorable as she plants, harvests and shares the garden’s bounty with her friends, grandfather, and large pet rabbit, who happily scampers through the pages and almost steals the show (he’s especially good at nibbling and napping).

 

From the moment I opened the book and saw Anna hiding in that big pea pod, I knew I was in for a real treat. I can’t decide which I like most — Anna sitting atop a giant beet, relaxing amongst the tomato plants, or wearing a dress made from lettuce leaves.

The poems, which are linked with a loose storyline, capture the sweet magic of growing edible plants — the surprise of pulling up a radish to discover its ruby red root, befriending a carrot and fennel who are seeing the world above ground for the first time. Anna and her friends take such joy in eating, too (a rhubarb tart, a radish salad picnic, a tomato garden party, a picnic table lunch complete with cabbage leaf plates).

Towards the end Anna sets up a little vegetable stand and then enjoys all the spicy scents of her mother’s herb garden (rabbit is napping, of course). The final poem is a wistful goodbye to summer and hello to autumn with a bouquet of late blooming nasturtiums.

What a breath of fresh air, a sheer delight. Here are a few sample poems to nibble on.

*   *   *

BEET

I do not think I’ll eat
This beet.
Too much of it is red,
Too much of it is head.
I do not think I’ll eat
This beet.

*    *    *

RHUBARB

This rhubarb leaf above my head
Is big enough to cast a shade.
The leaf is green, the stem is red,
And yesterday my mother made
A rhubarb tart for us to eat.
The crust was good, the filling sweet.
But still I think that after all
It makes a better parasol.

*   *   *

CHERRY

Peter and I
Are in this tree
Picking cherries,
One, two, three . . .
Twenty, thirty, forty more,
Cherries on this tree
Galore!
Seventy, eighty, ninety-one,
Oh, this picking will
Never be done!
We’ll pick until the moon comes up
And then I think
We’ll have
To stop.

*   *   *

ANNA’S GARDEN SONGS
written by Mary Q. Steele
illustrated by Lena Anderson
published by Greenwillow Books, 1989.
Poetry Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.

*   *   *

poetryfriday180The delightful and talented Buffy Silverman is hosting today’s Roundup at Buffy’s Blog. Perhaps you’d like to drift over in a giant pea pod so you can sample all the cool poetic offerings being served up in the blogosphere this week.

 

Do you have a vegetable garden?

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Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

50 thoughts on “friday feast: anna’s garden songs by mary q. steele and lena anderson

  1. I LOVE Lena Anderson’s pictures! And the poems make we wish I was better at growing vegetables – how wonderful to be able to skip out into one’s own garden and pick all you need for a salad on the spot!

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  2. I LOVE this book, too. It was published back in l989 after Steele’s ANNA’S SUMMER SONGS, What fun you brought back this memory. Steele had me hooked from her first beat about the beet — “Too much of it is red,/Too much of it is head.”

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    1. Oh, now I must find Anna’s Summer Songs! Can’t get enough of Lena’s art. I wasn’t familiar with Mary’s work until this book. The beet goes on . . .🙂

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  3. Those watercolors are delicious — what a perfect touch for a garden poetry book. I remember climbing a neighbor’s cherry tree and eating more than we gathered. Lovely poem.

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  4. Delightful, delightful, delightful. Thanks for sharing. Mr. Cornelius was certainly engaged in the preparation of this post, too….

    Have discovered that one of our neighbors is this sharp and fit 87-year-old with a green thumb and large garden. (I believe this year was her first time tending it without her husband.) We have twice gotten red potatoes from her.
    “I planted four pounds of seed potatoes and have picked more than eighty!” she said.
    “That’s a great return on your investment,” I replied.
    “I know,” she said. “I told my broker to do the same thing with my money!!” ;0)

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    1. LOL! What a riot! Sounds like you’re in for a lot of fun in your new neighborhood. Think I’ll roast some red potatoes this weekend.🙂

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    1. I’ve been on a Lena Anderson kick recently. Just got Linnea’s Almanac, and am now on the prowl for Anna’s Summer Songs.🙂

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  5. This book looks delightful–thanks for sharing it. I have to agree with Anna’s assessment of beets (one of the only vegetables I steer away from, although my husband is a fan and we did grow them many years ago.)
    Thanks for sending folks my way in that giant pea pod.

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  6. The illustrations are the delightful and the poems delicious. Thanks for sharing this precious book today.

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  7. Beautiful presentation of a lovely book, Jama. Thank you. I love the sprinkling of real food around the book; might be an interesting way to read with a little one. Oh, and the poor beet…once when I was young I mistook candied beets for cherries…at school…it was years before I could look at beets again. But I’ve made friends with them. I roast them in the oven like potatoes, and use the greens in my salad.

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  8. Did you choose to feature all red vegetables and fruits by accident or by design?!? Never mind which, they are all so very fun!

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  9. Hi, Jama! I find there are many mistakes and inconsistencies in our MCPS Kindergarten curriculum, but one of the things we do right is to spend much of the year on vegetables and their life cycles, which also involves growing and eating them. I’m mighty thankful that you discovered this book for me!

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    1. I like that although the vegetables are bigger than normal, they are realistically drawn, so kids can see how they’re supposed to look in real life. Good to hear you spend a lot of time teaching your students about growing and eating veggies.🙂

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    1. OMG! Thanks for the link– love all those tall tale postcards🙂. I think the girls munching on the giant slice of watermelon is my favorite.

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      1. Looking at those postcards, after I refound the link this morning, I was inspired to write a poem called “Tall Tales.” I think I’ll post it the Friday after Independence Day. (That is, if it survives the “next morning reality check.” Sometimes a little time takes a “great” poem and turns it into a “what was I thinking?” poem.)

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  10. Jama, how do you find such lovely books, all food-related and many poetry, too?
    Every time I read your posts, I want to go ut and buy a copy of whatever book you are reviewing for my library.

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    1. I’m always on the hunt for foodie books, but sometimes I stumble upon them while looking for other things. This book is a good example of that. I was admiring the illustrations in Linnea in Monet’s Garden recently and decided to look for more books illustrated by Lena Anderson, which led me to Elliot’s Extraordinary Cookbook and then Anna’s Garden Songs. Luckily my library had a copy!🙂

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  11. Jama, I just enjoyed a handful of the fresh edible-pod peas my daughter harvested from her raised beds this weekend – oh, yummmm! Here’s to good gardeners everywhere, and fresh peas and berries and corn and onions and tomatoes and and and and…..(oh, yes, and here’s to beautiful picture books and talented artists and writers.)

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  12. Oh Jama, there is so much veggie-delight to savor in your post. I shall definitely try to find this book. It appeals to the closet-vegetarian in me.

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