In honor of Earth Day, we asked one of our talented artists we work with here at Bloom Media, Anne Mottola, who has recently authored children’s books on gardening about the importance of inspiring the future generations to nurture and protect the earth.

“As a teacher at The Edible Academy and the Osborn School Garden as well as other school gardens where I have taught, I have to write garden-based lesson plans and often like to have a book to compliment my lessons. I search for appropriate books and have found many great ones but for certain lessons I had developed, I couldn’t find the ‘just right’ book, so I wrote my own. I used these handwritten books for several years and had several colleagues and students suggest that I consider getting them published. Writing a children’s book was always a dream of mine so I decided to take steps to make it happen. I first approached my sister, Maria, who has been drawing for most of her life and she said she would illustrate them. And then a friend of mine suggested I ask the New York Botanical Garden if they would help us publish them. I wasn’t aware that a publishing house exists at NYBG – the NYBG Press. The books they publish are more academic and scientific in nature. They had never published a children’s book before. I was able to acquire a meeting with the director of the NYBG Press. Maria and I shared my manuscripts and her sketches with him and he decided to take the leap and publish a series of children’s books called Wonders in the Garden. After years of dreaming about it, I finally had a children’s book on the shelves of libraries.

The first one published in the series, What Grows in the Garden? was written after teaching at a school in Mt. Kisco, New York where most of the children spoke only Spanish and didn’t know the words for certain fruits and vegetables that grow in the garden. In addition, I wanted to teach children what part of the plant you are eating – root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit, seed – when you eat that vegetable. I also wanted to illustrate to the children the progression of growth from seed to harvest.

This book provides a useful supplement to a lesson where students are learning the names and identities of plants they may be growing in their garden. This book is also helpful to teachers and parents who are helping children learn the names of different fruits and vegetables and the parts of a plant. It can be used in a garden setting as well as a classroom setting.

The second one published, What Lives in the Garden? was written for a lesson I do about the benefits of the many animals that visit or live in the garden. Some explore the soil, some fly from plant to plant, pollinating flowers, while others enjoy nibbling on leaves and munching on seeds. Some are ‘friends’ and help the plants in the garden grow, others ‘pests’ and can cause damage to some of the plants in the garden. ALL are welcome in the garden as part of a garden community.

This book provides a useful supplement to a lesson where students are learning the names and identities of different animals and insects they may see and observe while exploring an edible garden. It is also a useful tool to use when damage is found on plants as a way to have the children guess what animal or insect caused it. Teachers and parents can find this book to be a valuable resource in the classroom and at home, teaching preschool children the names of animals and insects that live in a garden.

This third book What Do You Sense in the Garden? is meant to introduce Pre-school age children to the five senses and how they help to enhance a child’s experience and sense of wonder in a garden. When a child explores a garden and stops to make observations, s/he uses his/her senses – to see, to hear, to smell, to taste and to touch – what lives and grows there. For example, children might smell lavender and mint – herbs commonly grown in an edible garden.

This book provides a useful supplement to a lesson about the five senses, using a garden as a unique and special place to explore and learn about each of them. It is also useful to teachers and parents in the classroom and at home as an effective way to teach children about the five senses using the garden as the setting.

Since the books have been published, I have had the unique opportunity to promote them and use them in the lessons I teach and the response has been very positive and humbling. The books have been bought, gifted and read in schools, libraries, private homes, gardens, and even YMCAs across the country from New York to Virginia to New Orleans and even Los Angeles! I did not write the books to make a million dollars – I don’t expect I will. I wrote them because I am passionate about gardening and the benefits of exploring the natural world and the gifts it offers. At a time when we are consumed by technology and our Earth is reacting in ways that seem off and concerning, I want my books to be a reminder that we need to pay attention to and care for our Earth in better ways than we currently are doing. It’s a very valuable resource and we all have a big responsibility to nurture and protect it. If I can inspire children to plant fresh vegetables and know where their food is coming from, then I have done my job. If I can encourage students to be stewards of the Earth and make a difference, then I will feel fulfilled. I also wrote the books because if I can encourage even one child to take a leap of faith when they fear something is not attainable and follow their dream, I will feel complete. I did and have three published books to show for it.”