Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Up in the Garden and Down in the DirtTitle: Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2015
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Gardening, Insects, Ecosystem


“I hide behind the cucumber vines, but their leaves can’t save me. I shiver and laugh, drenched in Nana’s rain.

Down in the dirt, water soaks deep. Roots drink it in, and a long-legged spider stilt-walks over the streams.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

In this exuberant and lyrical follow-up to the award-winning Over and Under the Snow, discover the wonders that lie hidden between stalks, under the shade of leaves . . . and down in the dirt. Explore the hidden world and many lives of a garden through the course of a year! Up in the garden, the world is full of green—leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt exists a busy world—earthworms dig, snakes hunt, skunks burrow—populated by all the animals that make a garden their home.


  • Plant a garden or maybe just some tomato and cucumber plants to start.
  • Grow butterflies or insects. Check out Insect Lore for kits.
  • Check-out Kidsgardening for additional classroom and family resources.
  • Pinterest themed board “Bugs in the Garden” that contains preschool crafts and activities.

Why I Like This Book:

This book takes you on a wondrous journey down in the dirt with fascinating details and lush language that simply leaves the reader in awe. I love the juxtaposition of the ‘down in the dirt’ scenes with their darker colored illustrations  and complex details of the ecosystem, against the ‘up in the garden’ scenes that are light-colored and depict simple childhood pleasures, such as quenching glass of lemonade or cooling water spray. An engaging book that will enrapture the reader as they travel through the weeks, months and seasons in the garden.

Here are some spreads from the book.





This is perfect for classroom science discussions as it includes wonderful back matter on all the animals mentioned. Also good for home libraries due its narrative storytelling. Do also check out the previous book in this series Over and Under the Snow about the subnivean layer during winter time.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Chronicle Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.


7 Responses to “Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt”

  1. Another great spring share for PPBF. Love the cover on this book and the illustrations! Great review.

  2. A fun pick to pair with a gardening activity! I was rooting for the grasshopper, not the garter snake (boo!).

  3. Great way to start the gardening season! (once the snow melts).


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