Friday, March 7, 2014

Weeds Find a Way - Blog Tour & Author Interview

Weeds Find a Way
by Cindy Jenson-Elliott;
illus. by Carolyn Fisher
49 pages; ages 4-8
Beach Lane Books, 2014

Theme: nature, nonfiction

"Weeds find a way to live where other plants can't grow", begins Cindy Jenson-Elliott. They send their seeds into the world on parachutes or velcroed onto animal fur. The seeds find a way to wait until the conditions are just right for growing.  They grow and flower, providing insects with food and us with beauty. Whatever they need to do to survive, weeds find a way.

What I like love about this book: I like the seasonal structure. I like the repetition of "weeds find a way", and the celebration of how weeds solve problems they encounter. I like the bold illustrations and the "meet the weeds" section at the back - a mini-field guide with drawing and notes about weeds that we might find in and around our homes. I especially like the tone: weeds make the world a prettier place one blossom at a time.

Beyond the book: So many things today. Below is an interview with the author, but first some hands-on activities. 
  • Draw a weed. Find a cool weed and draw or paint a portrait of it. Make it big!
  • Adopt a weed. Plant a flag next to your weed so you can return to it - and so no one mows it. Then measure it and sketch (or photograph) it every few days. How does it grow? Do the leaves change as it gets taller? What does the bud look like? the flower? the seed pods? How far do the seeds travel?
  • What do the weeds in your neighborhood find a way to do? 
When author Cindy Jenson-Elliott taught school, she took her students outside to study the weeds around the schoolyard. She graciously answered three questions about her writing.

Archimedes: What inspired you to write a book about weeds?

Cindy: I like introducing children to things they see all the time, but we don't really notice. Weeds - especially those in urban environments - make us ask "how did these plants get here?" People think of cities as "urban wastelands" but they are home to many plants. I hoe that children (and adults) will appreciate the small, oft-overlooked things in their environment ... like the weeds.

Archimedes: How did you come to the "weeds find a way" structure of the book?

Cindy: While in the school garden with students, I noticed there weren't too many vegetables, but there was a tremendous "crop" of weeds. So I turned that into our lesson and we studied how they grew, how they spread their seeds, and ways they created a home in the garden. There were no books on weeds, so I thought about what a book might look like. I knew I wanted to focus on adaptations.

Archimedes: How did the book change during the writing process?

Cindy: I originally envisioned pictures of weeds around the page with notes - like margin notes or a sketchbook. Then Carolyn (the illustrator) brought her ideas to the project and the weed pictures and notes got transformed into the "meet the weeds" section at the back. Another thing that happened was bringing a second, visual story into the book. That's the story of the girl and her dog going on a walks through the seasons.

Cindy says she's busy working on another book about gardening which may or may not feature weeds. Meanwhile, spring is on its way, and weeds will be finding their way into your neighborhood. So head outside and meet a few of them.

Drop by STEM Friday to see what other science books and resources bloggers are sharing.

Today's review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books.

Then on Monday we'll head over to join the Nonfiction Monday round-up, where you'll find all kinds of great nonfiction for children and teens.  Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.

This is the last stop on the Blog Tour. If you missed any stops, here's the tour schedule:

February 24 -     Growing With Science
February 25 -     As They Grow Up 
February 26 -     Kid Lit Frenzy
February 27 -     Sharpread
February 28 -     Children's Book Review
March 3 -           Let's Go Chipper
March 4 -           Just a Little Creativity
March 5 -           Unleashing Readers

23 comments:

  1. Thanks for including an author interview! I love how this book grew out of real experience with students in a garden. This would be a great one for the classroom!

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    1. especially if you can't grow a garden at your school - because there's bound to be weeds somewhere to look at!

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  2. Can't wait to read this one. I grew up next to a pasture and was always curious about the weeds I would find. The idea of urban weeds through the seasons is intriguing!

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    1. Cindy's inspired me to watch weeds over the entire year - not just when I'm pulling them out of my garden...

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  3. I can't wait until it's warm enough to melt the snow and see grass again. I won't even mind the weeds! I enjoyed the author interview - esp. about how the girl and her dog were added.

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    1. It's cool how the girl and dog have their own story within the weeds.

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  4. What a unique topic for a picture book. I love the rhythme and pacing of what you shared. The language is beautiful And, I also liked the book grew out of a classroom project.

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  5. This book looks fascinating! I love the title and concept. Weeds have certainly found a way in our yard. :-)

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    1. they've found a way into my yard and my garden and my driveway...

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  6. What a great, unique book! I know all about weeds! And velcro seeds!! We cherish most of our weeds around here. Some are quite yummy! But some are really hard to like at all. Thanks for the interview and the fun review!

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    1. Rhythm - you could probably write a book about the kinds of seeds that you bring home after a walk. Have you ever tried to grow them?

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  7. Loved the interview and the concept of wonderful urban weeds! Great choice with beautiful language.

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  8. Great interview and a great idea for a book. Thanks for the review. I just ordered this from my library.

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    1. great! I think you'll really enjoy it, Rosi.

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  9. Thanks so much for reviewing Weeds Find a Way! I just had my book launch party at the Yellow Book Road children's bookstore. Before the launch, I went out into my garden -- which is, admittedly, almost as full of weeds as it is of veggies -- and pulled and potted about ten different types of weeds. I had these out on a table for kids to see and draw, along with weed seeds from the anise that sprouted in my garden last year for kids to plant in newspaper pots. It was neat to watch kids get their hands into weeds. Soon swallowtail butterflies will be coming to these children's gardens, thanks to this lovely weed!
    Enjoy the arrival of spring!
    Cindy Jenson-Elliott

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  10. Another thought--
    I just want to say how much I appreciate this blog. It is an ode to the small, usually-unnoticed living things in the world -- pigeons, squirrels, crickets -- appreciating the world that hides right before our eyes.
    Thank you.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by ... I hope you had fun at the launch party. The cool thing about weeds is that they do indeed provide food for the larvae of some of our gorgeous butterflies.

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  11. What an interesting sounding book. I hope my library has this one. There are some beautiful weeds out there! I do love fields of dandelions.

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    1. dandelions are under-appreciated. They provide so much: nectar, pollen, seeds, beauty. They are the first flower to bloom in my yard.

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  12. This looks terrific. I love creative non-fiction. I've got a '63 picture book about weeds, but that's the only other one I've seen on the topic. Thanks!

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    1. now you're going to have me searching for weed books. 1963! goodness.

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    2. Believe it or not, it's called "The First Book of Weeds," by Barbara L. Beck and Pictures by Page Cary. (Franklin Watts, 1963) I found it at a library sale, and have taken my kids on treks with it, sketchbook-in-hand. The book is basically an encyclopedia of weeds.

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  13. I love thinking about the life lessons to be learned from weeds. They persevere, they're beautiful even when they're despised by some, they serve their purpose in nature, they bloom where they're planted!

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