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What's in the Garden?

Good food doesn't begin on a store shelf with a box. In "What's in the Garden?" kids read catchy rhymes about a variety of fruits and veggies. And there's a tasty, kid-friendly recipe for each one to start a lifetime of good eating. Author Marianne Berkes consulted with nutritionists and personally made every recipe in the book, to be sure they are both tasty and kid-friendly. There's also a "food for thought" section with interesting facts about each fruit and vegetable and a "how does your garden grow?" section explaining facts about gardening and the parts of plants.
Free recipes as well as downloadable activities for this book are available at


2014 Learning Magazine Teacher’s Choice Award Winner
2013 IBPPG Next Generation Indie Book Award Winner
2013 Living Now Book Award Winner (Gold Award – Children’s Non-Fiction)
2013 Mom’s Choice Gold Award Winner
2013 NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Winner
2013 Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval
2013 Purple Dragonfly Book Award (Honorable Mention)
2013 Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval


Berkes’ latest is a departure from many children’s gardening books, combining rhyming verses with recipes celebrating the garden’s bounty. Rectos present readers with a rhyming challenge to name what is growing, providing textual clues as well as gorgeously detailed and realistic illustrations, which often feature the flowers, insect pollinators and at least the beginnings of the fruit or vegetable. . . . From the popular ants on a log to the more daring French onion soup, breakfast-y carrot muffins to a dessert of blueberry pie, young chefs are likely to get a wide introduction to both the products of the garden and the culinary arts. . . . A celebration of growing and eating that is just in time for spring planting.

– Kirkus Reviews (January 23, 2013)


Here is a book that will stimulate kids’ appetite for exploring the world of gardens as well as stimulate their appetite for good, fresh food . . . and make the connection between the natural world and what they eat. What’s in the Garden? is a sweet and informative book, perfect to use as a read-aloud with young children

— Carolie Sly, Education Program Director, Center for Ecoliteracy


What’s in the Garden? By Marianne Berkes has story listeners answering a series of gardening riddles. Each rhyming page asks a question…i.e., “You plant them in rows and each forms a head / Or else you can grow the “leaf” kind instead…” The answer is discovered on the following page, complete with a elevant kidfriendly recipe, like applesauce, green salad or carrot muffins. Illustrations by Cris Arbo feature glorious summer gardens buzzing with life and kids enjoying their healthy snacks. The rhymes are inspired, the images inviting and the connections drawn between growing and eating perfect for encouraging the consumption of fresh fruits and veggies.

– E Magazine (March/April 2013)
Filled with vibrant illustrations, this is a great book for introducing edible plants. The rhyming text is easy for children to follow, with enough hints to guess the surprise vegetable on the next page. Using the recipes in the book—or asking students to contribute their own—this book encourages a conversation about the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

– Rose Judd-Murray, Educational Specialist, National Gardening Association


What’s in the Garden? is fun because children get to solve mysteries! Throughout the book are various rhyming riddles, and kids have to guess which fruit or vegetable is being described. They’ll find an apple, lettuce, blueberry, celery, and much more. And with each food is an easy recipe that kids can make with an adult using the fruits and vegetables. For example, they can make Ants on a Log (using celery), Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. The back of the book includes more info on each food item in the book, information on how plants grow and reproduce, cooking terms, and a list of garden songs, books and websites. Parents, teachers and librarians can find more downloadable activities relating to Dawn Publications’ books at

– Susan Heim, Chicken Soup for the Soul Editor (February 2013)


Most people recognize that we have a problem in this country with children’s eating habits. As a parent, I certainly could do better with the food that I provide for my kids. So how do we go about convincing children and their parents that eating healthier is worth the effort? Books like What’s in the Garden? can be part of the solution. This book combines poetry and recipes to make growing, preparing, and eating food a fun experience for a family. Each two page spread starts with a four line rhyming stanza that is the clue for the fruit or vegetable that is the topic of the spread. For example, one particular plant has a “lovely bouquet” for a head and it is great with a dip. Underneath the stanza is an attractive illustration of part of the plant, but not enough to ruin attempts at prediction. When you turn the page, you see a happy child eating a piece of broccoli with dip on it. The recipe and instructions are located beneath the illustration. Although I didn’t see this expressly stated in the text (It could be there. I might have missed it!), it seems that the author has made an attempt to make substitutions in order for the recipes to be healthier. The broccoli dip recipe calls for yogurt instead of mayonnaise. In all, there are 11 fruits and vegetables that are featured in the book. In the back matter, there is more information about each plant and general information about the difference between fruits and vegetables and what they need to grow. A glossary of cooking terms and a list of more sources for garden information are also included. Several more activities and bookmarks are available if you go to the downloadable activities page on the Dawn Publications website.

If your school has a garden, this book would be a great resource for your class. I think sharing some of these recipes and the activities page in a parent newsletter would be helpful as well. For older classes, recipes always show up on those pesky standardized reading tests, so you could write one of these recipes on a piece of chart paper and talk about how you read procedural text and what questions you could ask. This also leads to lessons on sequence. Spring is just around the corner so break out your seed catalog, pick up a copy of What’s in the Garden? and start planning for a season of healthy eating.

– NC Teacher Stuff – Jeff Barger (March 2013)


What struck me first about this book that I was happy to see was the cultural diversity in children’s illustrations. Big deal for those of us in federal agencies (and should be for everyone!) Interesting combo of plant description and a recipe. My favorite part is the fact that the pictures included the pollinators or sometimes pest of the plants….capturing what you truly will see on these plants, like it or not! And I am drawn to rhyming books myself – catchy, fun to read to groups and at the same time shares information. Added bonus that the kids get to “guess” what the vegetable is before turn the page…although a 2 page spread on one topic is a good layout too.

– Linda Hauser – USDA Forest Service, Shawnee National Forest (March 2013)

Rhythmic poetry gives one-page clues that answer the title question. “It’s round. It’s tiny. It grows on a bush./When made into sauce, it turns to a mush./This fabulous fruit can be used as a dye,/And is really yummy in muffins and pie.” The fresh fruits and vegetables revealed by turning the page are celebrated in vibrant full-color illustrations. Birds and insects also populate these gardens”a slug on celery leaves, a ladybug alighting on a tomato stem in pursuit of aphids, and a crow circling corn plants. Very, very close-up, realistic illustrations show children thoroughly enjoying the garden’s bounty–saliva drips onto an apple being crunched, lettuce sticks out of an African American boy’s teeth, broccoli drenched in dip fills the mouth of an Asian American boy. There’s a recipe for each fruit or vegetable” e.g., garlic mashed potatoes, blueberry pie, and ants on a log. Four pages for adults are filled with ideas for using the book with children.
– School Library Journal – Frances E. Millhouser (May 2013)

It’s just about the right time to begin thinking about what’s going in the garden. If you are looking for idea, then you will enjoy What’s in the Garden? written by Marianne Berkes and illustrated by Cris Arbo. What makes this book unique is that it is designed around kid-friendly recipes for the things you can grow in your garden. Each recipe is introduced by a poem that encourages the reader to guess what fruit or vegetable is going to be used in the recipe. Do you have lettuce, carrots, blueberries, corn or onions? All of these, and more, are the perfect ingredients for salads, soups, sauces, and desserts. Want to know more about each of these? At the back of the book is a list of interesting information about each one. Not sure on how to plant? There is help here, too. It even has a list of important words and more books, songs, and websites that will encourage further exploration.
Needless to say, there is a great “crop” of books for the spring season. Why not “plant” yourself in your local library or bookstore and select a few to “devour”. I am sure you will agree that this will be a wonderful way to begin the spring and get ready for what awaits us as the weather gets warmer.
– Western New York Family Magazine – Dr. Donna Phillips (April 2013)

The predictable answer to the title question? Fruits and vegetables! This attractive introduction to 12 edible plants is intended to stimulate healthy eating among kids. A four-line rhyme poses a question, and the next page provides the answer along with a boxed recipe and an illustration of a child preparing or eating it. For example: “It’s usually brown, way down in the soil. / You scrub it to bake it, or peel it to boil. / It doesn’t have ears, but does have eyes” / It’s really a favorite when mashed or as ‘fries.’”(The recipe that follows is for Garlic Mashed Potatoes.) The realistic, brightly colored paintings depict multicultural children (many missing baby teeth) and use icons for each ingredient . . .
– ALA Booklist – Julie Cummins (May 2013)

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Oh, wait a minute, that’s a flower garden. We don’t eat silver bells, cockleshells, and pretty maids all in a row. But we do eat apples, celery, tomatoes, and pumpkins. Author Marianne Berkes, who has written several other books for Dawn Publications such as Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef and Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme, tells kids about twelve different fruits and vegetables which can be grown in and around a garden. Did you know that lettuce is the second most popular fresh vegetable in the United States? The potato is number one.
At each opening, there is a rhyming riddle that provides clues to help the reader guess what fruit or vegetable is under consideration. Then when the page is turned, there is the name of the fruit or vegetable, with a picture, drawn by illustrator Cris Arbo, and a kid-friendly recipe for using it. So What’s in the Garden? not only provides a lot of helpful scientific material but also serves as an introductory cookbook for students. The back of the book has further information about the fruits and vegetables mentioned, how to grow a garden, plant parts, and cooking. Many more free teaching and learning ideas are available at the publisher’s website. Children should know that good food begins not with a box on a store shelf but from a garden, and this book will help them understand how that happens.
– Home School Book Review – Wayne Walker (April 2013)