“What better day than Earth Day to really make a determined effort to live lives in better harmony with nature.” Dr Jane Goodall
This blog, from a lifelong avid reader and lifetime dandelion lover, is about Dandelions and Books. Books can help us love the Earth, and Dandelions can help us love reading – what a perfect pairing, and how fortuitous that these two celebrations and calls for action should come at the same time.
Our Dandelions are loving the sunny weather we’ve been having across the UK for the past several weeks and are playing their full part on pavements, verges, driveways and fields, bringing sunshine and optimism to us as our Spring is in full spring and lockdown continues. They’re still in full swing, with seed clocks also now available, so I hope these book recommendations help everyone to make the most of them while they are with us.
- In first place as my most favourite Dandelion book is Christopher Nibble (in a tale of dandelion derring-do!) by Charlotte Middleton (Oxford University Press 2009) – and the perfect match for Earth Day as Christopher Nibble averts eco-disaster!
‘Christopher Nibble loves munching dandelion leaves. And he’s not alone. All the guinea pigs in Dandeville eat dandelion leaves for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But no one seems to do anything when the dandelions begin to dwindle. They just carry on munching. In fact the guinea pigs of Dandeville are heading for eco-disaster . . . But that’s where Christopher Nibble steps in. He discovers the last dandelion growing outside his bedroom window and, rather than eat it, he does his horticultural research in the library and then nurtures the dandelion patiently until it has produced a perfect head of tiny seeds. Then he blows the seeds from a hill high over Dandeville so that each dandelion seedling takes root and grows into a new plant. Charlotte Middleton has illustrated her witty, quirky story with charming collage illustrations and her guinea pigs are the most endearing, funky little characters you are ever likely to meet.’
- In second place is Footpath Flowers by JonArno Lawson & Sydney Smith (Walker Books 2016) with beautiful messages both about noticing the everyday ordinary and young children’s desire to give.
‘In this wordless, beautifully illustrated picture book from award-winning poet JonArno Lawson, a little girl collects wild flowers while her distracted father pays her – and their surroundings – little attention. Each flower the little girl gathers becomes a gift for a person or animal, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter. An ode to the importance of small things, small people and small gestures, Footpath Flowers is a quiet but powerful testament to the joy that children can find in ordinary things and the mutual value of giving.’
- Third place goes to Dandelions by Katrina McKelvey & Kirrili Lonergan (EK Books 2017) – a little girl teaches her Dad how to enjoy and appreciate and the misunderstood ‘weed’.
‘One day, a little girl notices her father mowing the lawn–in the process destroying her favourite flowers: the dandelions. She rushes out to stop him, but is crushed to see that she’s too late; they’re all gone.
She quickly knows what to do: she’s just going to have to sit outside and wait until they grow back! Fortunately, Dad has another idea. Taking her hand, he leads her to the front step, and there, nestled in a crack in the concrete, are two tiny dandelion puffballs.
Father and daughter each blow as hard as they can, and the tiny dandelion parachutes spiral and spin, up, up and away, spreading their seeds to create new generations of dandelions far and wide. They lie down on the grass, watching as they whirl and twirl through the air.’
- Number 4, The Dandelion Seed by Joseph Antony & Cris Arbo (Dawn Publications 1997) is paired with Number 5, The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream, from the same Author/Illustrator team 17 years on. Both bring out the many metaphors embedded in how this meaning-filled plant inhabits our world.
‘The humble dandelion by roadside or mountainside flowers every month of the year throughout the world a fitting symbol of life. Its journey is our journey – a journey filled with challenge wonder and beauty. Its story is a mystery too great to fathom, told so even a child can understand.’
The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream by Joseph Antony & Cris Arbo (Dawn Publications 2014)
‘Consider the dandelion. It lives life fully, flies with beauty, survives storms, endures darkness, never gives up. It is one of nature’s greatest success stories. Like dandelions, each of us can make the world a brighter place. The trick is to bloom right where we are.
The book, also, includes information and activities about dandelions and weeds, seed dispersal and the theme of courage, patience and perseverance.’
- Last but not least, is a modern take on the Flower Fairies Poppy, Buttercup, Bluebell & Dandy by Fiona Woodcock (Random House 2018), as the fairy team restores nature to save the city and change the world.
‘A group of beautiful and feisty young wildflowers on skateboards and scooters zoom through the pages of this stunning book, spreading flower seeds as they go. Together they transform their urban environment into a place that is no longer grey, but filled with colour and scent. Nature’s magic is revealed in all its glory, embodying Ralph Waldo Emerson’s idea that a weed is “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Budding environmentalists will respond to the underlying themes of conservation and stewardship of the earth.’
As a last word, I’d argue that the Dandelion is a plant whose virtues we had already long discovered, but seem to have culturally forgotten. In a future Dandelion Appreciation post, I’ll share some ‘virtues’ knowledge along with a selection of non-fiction books for both children and adults – watch this space.
[Note that children’s books are often available second hand, reducing environmental impact and money spent at the same time.
www.betterworldbooks.com sells second hand (and new) books, and for every book you buy donates books and money to literacy programs. Be careful to order books that are in their UK warehouse to avoid them being mailed from the USA. www.hive.co.uk supplies new books, making a donation to the local independent bookshop that you select.]