Spring book recommendations from the Ottawa Public Library!

Thank you to Margaret Mary Conlon from the Alta Vista branch of the Ottawa Public Library for these book suggestions for May!

Kitten’s Spring – written & illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

Children will enjoy exploring spring through the inquisitive eyes of Kitten. A simple, charming tale of new beginnings and discoveries, set off to advantage by the unique, inimitable style of Eugenie Fernandes’ artwork. Invite your child to join Kitten as she sets off to meet other animals and their young!

A Bloom of Friendship: The story of the Canadian Tulip Festival – by Anne Renaud; illustrated by Ashley Spires

A Bloom of Friendship is more than a book on the Tulip Festival. Using the much appreciated scrapbook style, Anne Renaud succeeds in making the history of it accessible and exciting, as well as putting the story into the historical context surrounding it. Everything from key events to notable people of the Second World War, such as Anne Frank, is highlighted without becoming overwhelming. A deftly written book with a distinct Canadian twist for those curious to learn more about this well known festival.

Quiet in the Garden – written & illustrated by Aliki

A splendid book that celebrates the inherent beauty of nature, Quiet in the Garden encourages children to see the exquisiteness of life right in their own backyard. From birds to spiders, a young boy and his bunny learn about other creatures and finally host a picnic for their wild friends! Aliki’s gentle words and realistic, mixed media illustrations are sure to charm everyone. You may even find yourself being quiet in a garden!

Ten Little Caterpillars – by Bill Martin Jr.; illustrated by Lois Ehlert

This book is much more than a counting book! Well known Bill Martin Jr. and Lois Ehlert have succeeded in creating a book that can be enjoyed on many levels. Young readers will enjoy counting the caterpillars and seeing what they do. Older readers will enjoy learning to identify the plants and animals featured. The caterpillars are mainly local, and are pictured at the end with the butterfly and moth species they become, enabling budding naturalists to go explore and perhaps find a caterpillar like one of the ten little caterpillars.

Explore Spring – by Maxine Anderson; illustrated by Alexis Frederick-Frost

This is the perfect book to accompany older children on their quest to turn their knowledge of the seasons into science. A mix of demonstrations, activities, science experiments and crafts, this book has something to interest everyone. Would you prefer to make a thunderstorm, build a wind chime, start a science journal or construct a bird nest? With this book, the choice is up to you!

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! – by Candace Fleming; illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Mr. McGreely had always wanted a vegetable garden. One day, he planted lots of yummy veggies, but he was not the only one who thought them yummy! Join the three hungry bunnies as they outwit Mr. McGreely, and teach him that things really do taste better when you share. Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

Everything Spring – by Jill Esbaum; pictures compiled by National Geographic Kids

Vivid pictures and simple text combine to show children young life, including wild and domestic plants, birds and animals. A special page allows them to follow along with a tadpole as it transforms into a frog! Featuring the close-up, high quality photography associated with National Geographic, this ‘sneak-peek’ is sure to fascinate children.

Butterflies in the Garden – written & illustrated by Carol Lerner

What plants do butterflies like? How do you attract them to your garden, balcony or window box? Written like a story and beautifully illustrated by the author in striking watercolour, this book is both an engaging read and a good starting point for those looking to attract northern North American butterflies to their home!


Grow It, Cook It: Simple gardening projects and delicious recipes – edited by Sonia Willock-Moore

A fantastic visual guide to growing and cooking your own food for you and your children! No garden? No problem! This unique guide features tips on container gardening various vegetables and herbs. Everything from growth time and conditions required, to recipes featuring your home-grown produce is available at your fingertips. A great way to celebrate spring!

Backyard Birds – Jonathon Latimer & Karen Stray Nolting; illustrated by Roger Tory Peterson

The perfect bird guide for young birders from well known Peterson Field Guides! This edition features common birds that children are likely to see in cities and suburbs, rather than focusing on birds that are uncommon, thus encouraging the would be bird watcher. Clear pictures combined with close-up drawings to highlight identifying characteristics render this book invaluable to anyone who loves birds. A must-have for spring!

What are you reading this spring!?

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Kidding Around in the Garden

by Misty During my years studying environmental science, I came across a wonderful book called Last Child in the Woods. It's a (to quote the back cover) "groundbreaking work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors."

Author Richard Louv laments the current trend of structured play for children - our tendency to shuffle our kids from one activity to the next, never allowing time for more natural play routines to emerge. And also never allowing much time for outdoor play, whether in backyards, local wooded areas or ravines, and gardens.

Having recently finished another great read, Animal Vegetable Miracle- in which one family strives to live entirely off their land for a whole year - I have been prompted to think a bit more about my own daughter's relationship to the land, and the way we teach her about our food sources. As Louv writes,

"the idea that natural landscapes, or at least gardens, can be therapeutic and restorative is, in fact, an ancient one that has filtered down through the ages. Over two thousand years ago, Chinese Taoists created gardens and greenhouses they believed to be beneficial for health."

Us city dwellers tend to be seperated from our food source, and our meals land in grocery stores on styrofoam trays and covered in shiny plastic wrap. It's funny to think, but there are kids out there who don't even know that potatoes grow in the ground! How could they, when they've never had the opportunity to dig one out?

There are many benefits to gardening, and research backs a lot of them. Of course, some are just common sense, but it's handy to begin thinking about ways to involve your children. Here are some interesting facts, tidbits and suggestions:

- With gardening comes a sense of community: neighbours swapping plants, seeds, and produce, or local housing co-ops growing a communal garden. Don't have a backyard? Begin with easy-to-grow plants and vegetables in pots (herbs are great to start with!) or speak with your condo board about a communal growing space.

- gardening has been shown to be a powerful therapy for children with attention-deficit disorders and other behavioural issues.

- Allow the freedom for children to just get dirty. Sure, it takes us parents extra time to tidy up, but a child who has a run of the backyard with hoses, rakes and shovels is one happy kid!

- Getting children involved in planting and tending gardens can go a long way in teaching various aspects of our educational curriculum - biology, chemistry, and even reproductive health (after all - plants reproduce, right? Explain how and why! Don't worry if you need to Google the answers.)

- Assign your child a garden of their own, and involve them in picking seeds (or plants), weeding, and then picking and enjoying the "fruits" of all their hard work.

- Living here in Canada, we also need to learn about food storage. How do we enjoy the benefits of our labours long after the first snow has fallen? New local businesses are popping up, offering us ways to re-learn what we have forgotten - drying, smoking, canning and pickling may be skills you wished you knew more about. Now's the time! Let's bring back these skills, and pass them along to the next generation.

- Studies have shown that gardening and other forms of natural play (exploring woods or ravines) can improve a child's sense of worth and self-esteem. Why? Being responsible for a garden leads to rewards - like when we discover the first tomato of the season. Kids can feel proud about what they have accomplished.

- If there is no time for gardening, at least make an effort to visit your local farmer's market each week during harvest season, and make sure to get to know local producers. You might be surprised what you can discover about the food we eat.

Swimming lessons, gymnastics and playgroups are fun and rewarding activities, but can be overwhelming for children if that is all they experience. Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

So this winter, peruse through some seed catalogues with your children, and discover how much fun it is to plan what you'll be eating next spring, summer and fall.

Happy Gardening!

Misty Pratt is a local doula in Ottawa, and when she's not supporting new families, she's working as a Research Assistant at the Ottawa Hospital and blogging about life in general. Read more at www.thechickadeetweet.blogspot.com

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Gardening for dummies : the plants are outside

by Lara Last weekend I planted my garden!

It's not pretty.  It is the garden of a disorganized non-gardener.  But things are already growing (YEEHAW!) and really my goal here is to demonstrate that anyone can garden with fairly minimal effort or skill ;)

The main garden

When we moved in to this house there was this bizarre sandbox with a roof. It was old and falling apart.  My husband cut the roof off and I turned it into a garden!

In this garden I planted my tomato plants (I'm still not sure on the need or value of those cages - anyone want to chime in? I have 5 plants and two cages, I'll play it by ear ;)), peas, edamame, green onions, and carrots.

I discovered that you can buy seeds that are pre-planted into strips to prevent putting too many seeds close together.  This seems perfect for me because I can't seem to stop myself from dumping the seeds in in clumps (kind of like how I used to put tinsel on the Christmas tree, much to my father's dismay). :)

Back garden

That's the fancy name for what I planted at the back of the official garden because I had more stuff than would fit in there ;)  I planted 5 cucumber plants between the garden and the fence.

We also planted some pumpkins to the side of the cucumbers.  Possibly too many pumpkins for the space - we'll see what happens :)

The barrel

I bought a barrel and in it I planted basil (I'm not sure this will work, I think I should have planted that as one of my seedlings) spinach and lettuce in it.  The most exciting part is the lettuce is already growing!

The old garden

I didn't even tidy up the old garden area...  as you can tell from the photo.  But I added some more soil and planted our watermelons there. Again, my lack of knowledge here may mean I have planted watermelons way too close together - but it's an experiment and we're keeping our fingers crossed!

The plants are looking happy and healthy in the ground and I can't wait to start harvesting. I think I'm going to go and buy some fencing and some netting to protect the plants from the rabbits.  There are lots and lots of rabbits in Orleans.

Have you planted a garden yet this year? There's still lots of time! I want to hear about it!

Lara Wellman is mom to 4 year old Kiernan and 2 year old twins Quinn and Juliette. You can read her personal blog at Gliding Through Motherhood, about her weight loss journey at Losing it in Ottawa, and her social media blog at Larawellman.com

Gardening for dummies

by Lara My seedlings were outgrowing the tray that they were planted in but it was still too early to move them outside. (I had to ask twitter if I could put them outside or not, because I really do have no ideas what I'm doing :))

I heard that you could make little pots out of newspapers that you can then plant in the ground when they're ready. GENIUS!

Only problem was that neither my husband or I could figure out how to do it with just the instructions.

So youtube to the rescue. You really can find everything on the internet now.

Once we have figured out how to make the pots, Kiernan helped me with the folding, for the first one. (Expect you'll have to make the rest on your own :))

Then we filled them with dirt and planted the seedlings. Caution, don't put very much dirt in, the newspaper pots... not THAT sturdy.

But they're doing the trick. I water them a bit at a time in my window and hope that in a week or two I can move them outside into the garden.

How's your garden doing?

Lara Wellman is mom to 4 year old Kiernan and 2 year old twins Quinn and Juliette. You can read her personal blog at Gliding Through Motherhood, about her weight loss journey at Losing it in Ottawa, and her social media blog at Larawellman.com

Gardening for dummies : planting seedlings

by Lara I most certainly do not have a green thumb.  I've killed many plants in my day and I'm not really into all things home repair and lawn maintenance.  But last year I decided I would actually plant a garden (after talking about it for 5 years) and I took enormous pleasure in tending my sad little garden and eating the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers it produced.

This year I decided to take it a step further and plant some things from seeds in the house.  I was nervous - I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm not great at reading instructions (it's good to know these things about yourself :)) so I went to Walmart and bought a kit.  Add water. Add seeds. Cover and ignore.  PERFECT!

This tray required us to pour about 7 cups of water into those pellets to puff them up.  Then you tore them open, put a couple of seeds in and covered the tray with a lid to put in a not sunny spot.

We planted cucumbers, two kinds of tomatoes and watermelon.  We went to the store and bought the seeds together and Kiernan specifically requested the watermelon, making them his pet project and all the more interested in taking part in whole process.

He then made drawings with his dad of all the kinds of plants (using the seed packages to help) to put into the tray so we would remember what row was what.

I then put the lid on and dumped it on the dining room table because the twins were getting crazy and the time for paying attention to this ended abruptly. Which is just further proof that anyone can do this.

A few days later I went in and saw all of them had sprouted! I took the lid off and moved it to the greenhouse window we're lucky to have in our kitchen.

In the coming weeks I will be attempting to transplant them into individual pots and then out into the garden.  I'll be documenting the journey here, so stay tuned!

Lara Wellman is mom to 4 year old Kiernan and 2 year old twins Quinn and Juliette. You can read her personal blog at Gliding Through Motherhood, about her weight loss journey at Losing it in Ottawa, and her social media blog at Larawellman.com

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