That’s all you really need to know. It’s that simple.
It’s the tale of a young child who plants some seeds and watches them grow. This in itself isn’t ground-breaking; there are plenty of other lovely books out there that have the same basic premise, but this one just does it so well, so delightfully, so cleverly it’s become my number one book for gardening with kids.
First up, there’s the fact that Lulu gets her inspiration for her garden from books.
Poetry is what kicks it all off, but then she uses non-fiction books to learn more. You can see how this matches Playing by the book’s ethos so perfectly – with ideas coming from books, sparking more reading of books, embedding stories and ideas into each of our lives. One example of this which I especially love is depicted in the endpages of this book, where first you get the original version of the nursery rhyme ‘Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary’ but at the end of the book you get a re-written version, Lulu’s version. Lulu has taken the poem and really made it her own.
Next I love this book because it’s about something completely unrelated to diversity (it is not an “issues” book), and yet it does wonders for inclusion.
In a way it saddens me that simply depicting a non-white family doing something as ordinary as gardening is radical. But mostly I’m delighted to see a family (who just happen to be black) doing ordinary family things together.
And yes, I love this book because its about doing things together as a family; getting crafty, getting creative, Dad included! Going these projects isn’t difficult, and any effort involved is more than repaid through the joy of the time and experiences shared.
Beardshaw’s painting illustrations are full of colour without ever being garish. She’s got a real eye for clothing, and I just love how she’s captured Lulu’s curly hair. On one level that’s such a small thing, but on another I feel it really shows an authenticity in her illustrations.
I think the scene above is extra special. Last year the School Library Journal published a fascinating article about research showing How Cross-Racial Scenes in Picture Books Build Acceptance. Although the stats are based on the US picture book market, they still speak volumes elsewhere in the world:
Fewer than 10 percent of books published in 2013 featured children of color, according to statistics gathered by the Cooperative Children’s Books Center.
Even more rare are the picture books that depict children making positive connections across racial differences. This absence sends a subtle message to children, as if we were telling them, “It’s okay to only play with children who are like you” or that “children like you don’t play with children who are racially different from you.”
In a study investigating how kids respond to cross-racial depictions in picture books, Aronson and her colleagues randomly assigned children to two groups. The first group was read books that depicted children from different races playing together and having fun. The second group was read similar books, but with children from only one racial group.
After six weeks, they found that children in the first group reported greater comfort and interest in playing across difference than children in the second group. Perhaps even more importantly, the first group reported that these positive attitudes remained three months after the study was completed.
We NEED more books like Lulu Loves Flowers, not just so black kids can see themselves in picture books but also so that kids who aren’t black can see them too, and can see kids, people getting on whatever their skin colour. Lulu Loves Flowers is a book for everyone, and should not be shelved only with the “Diverse/inclusive books”.
Lulu Loves Flowers is the latest of several books Anna McQuinn has written about this family. All are joyous, full of smiles, reflecting everyday experiences of young children and highlighting things that really matter – not only but especially – with little ones: Spending time together, reading and sharing stories. If you’ve live or work with kids under 5 I think they should form an essential part of your library.
Although Lulu Loves Flowers may be mostly aimed at younger kids, my 10 year old wanted to make her own garden to go with the book, using bell charms (we got ours from this etsy seller) and a fabulous bookish planter we found in the local junk shop.
There’s nothing like making a miniature fairy garden!
We also thought about a crafty project which younger kids could easily do too and came up with the idea of making silver bells for our garden out of old yoghurt pots. Using acrylic paint we first coated our clean pots in silver and when dry we drizzled them with PVA glue and sprinkled glitter over them. (Acrylic is a good paint to use on yoghurt pots as it sticks better to the plastic. If you’ve access to lots of cardboard egg boxes you could also use them to make bells, and then poster paint would work fine.)
We hung our bells up in our cherry tree, in the hope that the movement and sparkle will keep the pigeons from eating our fruit (yes, we live optimistically!).
I wonder if we’ll end up keeping the pigeons away by attracting lots of magpies instead 🙂
Whilst making our silver bells we listened to:
Of course there are also lots of recordings of ‘Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary’, but many of them are a bit dreary. One of the more upbeat ones is that recorded by Saindhavi.
Other activities which go well with reading Lulu Loves Flowers include:
Have you and the kids planted anything recently in the garden?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of from the book’s publisher