Leaving the World a Little Bit Greener

April 22, 2012 § 3 Comments

Happy Earth Day (or, as my very astute 4-year-old pointed out this morning, “Aren’t we supposed to care about the earth every day?”)! Oh right, yes.

Ironically, with all the increased mobilization around Going Green in the last several decades, the member of our family who actually most fully embodies and preaches a love for the planet is my 94-year-old grandmother, referred to affectionately by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren as Noni. As a child, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ farm house, on the shores of Lake Erie, getting lessons on the value of spiders (you never kill a spider, we were told, even if it is sitting on your toothbrush), the conservation of water (why shower when you can swim in the lake?), and that sometimes leaving trees and wildflowers right where they are makes the best kind of landscaping.

Today, one of the highlights of my son’s summers is the week he spends with Noni up at this same spot, where the house has been modernized but the land has not. These days, Noni’s mostly sedentary, but by golly if she doesn’t still go out with her hose to water her garden, and JP loves to trail behind her, occasionally earning a turn with the hose, but mostly getting an earful on “dead heading” flowers, which weeds are “not worth your time,” and how to grow the oldest and biggest Hibiscus plant in the history of time.

Perhaps this is why he (and I) respond so wholeheartedly to Grandpa Green (Ages 4-8), by the supremely talented (and deliciously quirky) Lane Smith. Through the simple and admiring words of a little boy (armed with his own watering can), we learn about his great-grandpa, a masterful hedge trimmer, who transforms ordinary garden hedges into dragons, elephants, wedding cakes–even the cast of “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Little Engine That Could.” As the boy explores his great-grandpa’s garden, we realize that every “milestone” of the latter’s life has been remembered in one of these stunning green creations.

There is very little that’s not green (and, I mean, EVERY shade of green) in Smith’s vibrant dimensional illustrations, and one can’t help but feel awe-full at the beauty of this color (coincidentally, green has been JP’s favorite color since he could talk—so perhaps I could bind his artwork and sell it next Earth Day).

But where I get all teary as a parent (and a granddaughter) is in the subtle but powerful ending, where the two generations stand pruning side-by-side, and the little boy tells us that it’s OK if his great-grandpa doesn’t remember everything anymore “because the garden remembers for him.”

Other Heartwarming Favorites About Leaving the Earth a Little Bit Greener:
The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart & David Small (Ages 4-8)
The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown (Ages 4-8)
Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney (Ages 4-8)
We Planted a Tree, by Diane Muldrow & Bob Staake (Ages 5-8)
Our Tree Named Steve, by Alan Zweibel & David Catrow (Ages 4-8)

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