The Junior Master Gardener program, administered by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and American Horticultural Society, have named their 2021 “Growing Good Kids” Excellence in Children’s Literature award winners.
The Junior Master Gardener program is an international youth gardening program that engages youth in hands-on group and individual learning experiences. Its goal is to help children develop a love of gardening and appreciation for nature while cultivating their minds.
The “Growing Good Kids” Excellence in Children’s Literature Awards Program is an annual program recognizing picture book titles published within the previous year.
Since 2005, award winners have been selected as representing the best in children’s garden-related picture books.
“The year’s winners are must-haves and will engage kids with powerful messages,” said Randy Seagraves, AgriLife Extension program specialist and International Junior Master Gardener program curriculum director, Bryan-College Station. “Their content ranges from a character who works to make the most of every day, to a neighborhood coming together to transform an empty lot, to a young student helping to lead a movement that engages her entire community. This year’s winners are great fun and will inspire young readers.”
This year’s award selections
The selections for 2021 are:
— “Mae the Mayfly,” written by Denise Brennan-Nelson and illustrated by Florence Weiser, Sleeping Bear Press. Most mayflies live for only a single day. This story is about making the most of the time allowed and shows how much can be accomplished in one day alone. Mae learns how to appreciate simple beauty, overcome fears and help others.
— “One Little Lot: The 1-2-3s of an Urban Garden,” written by Diane C. Mullen and illustrated by Oriol Vidal, Charlesbridge. This book tells the story of how an urban community can come together to clean up an abandoned lot and make it into something useful. There are also lessons about the importance of teamwork and how working toward a common purpose brings people closer, allowing strangers to become friends.
— “Butterflies Belong Here,” written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Meilo So, Chronicle Books. At school, a young girl who loves butterflies learns about how their habitat is being threatened and decides to help. This starts a movement at her school that leads to the building of a single Monarch butterfly station. From that, it develops into an outdoor classroom and the establishment of a vegetable garden that gets her entire community involved.
How the books earn recognition
Publishers nominate titles published in the previous year and an award committee comprised of teachers, literature professors and leaders in youth gardening from across the country evaluate the nominees.
Because winning selections are picture books, they were chosen for their story and accompanying illustrations as well as their content relating to plants and gardening.
Seagraves said he hopes attention from the awards will bring a wider audience of young minds to these deserving titles. He noted some of the best award committee reviews are from the teachers who put these books to the real test of reading them to their elementary school students, then asking them what they thought about the books.
“This year’s selections are engaging and inspiring works that captivate the interest and imagination of young minds through plant, garden and ecology themes,” Seagraves said. “We want more kids to experience and benefit from these wonderful stories.”
More information about these and previous winners of “Growing Good Kids” awards can be found at https://jmgkids.us/bookawards/.