By LEAH COOPER
While searching through the rapidly growing “this year” canes of my blackberry plants, searching for the berries that grow on “last year” canes, I was reminded of a delightful children’s book, Plantzilla by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by David Cathrow. Mortimer Henryson is excited that he has been selected to take the class plant home for summer vacation. He loves Plantzilla! What could go wrong with…a plant? But strange things begin to happen in the Henryson household. A pot roast goes missing, then steaks off the grill. Has anyone seen Mrs. Henryson’s prized Chihuahua?
Through a series of letters written between Mortimer, his parents and his science teacher, the characters discuss the progress of this strange – and a bit frightening – plant that becomes more human as the summer progresses. Mortimer becomes more obsessed with Plantzilla as his parents grow increasingly agitated. The story is great fun, but the illustrations are what make this book. With each new page, Plantzilla gets larger and grabs more objects. With all the detail, this is a good book for parents or grandparents to read together with their children, taking time to point out the strange goings-on at the Henryson’s. While Plantzilla is a bit over the top compared to real plants, the book does include a fair amount of actual plant science. Not just the need for water and sunlight, but cilia and metamorphosis.
Scholastic lists this book for pre-K through 2nd grade. However, based on the vocabulary, use of cursive in some of the letters, and the complexity of the illustrations, a number of on-line reviews and teacher resources suggest “Plantzilla” for up to grade 5. It is one of the books featured in “Literature in the Garden,” part of the Elementary level curricula in the Junior Master Gardener program. “Plantzilla” is just one of the many outstanding children’s books available for checkout at Jefferson Carnegie Library.
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