Book Review | “Plantzilla”

Plantzilla picBy 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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2 thoughts on “Book Review | “Plantzilla”

  1. Leah, I am very appreciative of the contributions you are making for the Jefferson Carnegie Library to the local paper. I do have one question from your notation you made on the reading level of the book. As you are also a long-standing and conscientious member of the JISD School Board, at what point are our students being taught cursive writing for them to be able to read it? My personal and professional opinion is that cursive writing should begin early in a child’s curriculum structure. I know with testing and required amounts of time for certain subject matter that TEA requires, has put the squeeze on the time allotted for handwriting. Cursive writing has, by many, considered to be now outdated. I was introduced to cursive handwriting in the second semester of second grade. In my personal opinion, our children are being cheated of this skill. There is a direct correlation between handwriting and a child’s skills in writing and reading. Both of my grandchildren have an interest in cursive writing and want to learn it, but I’ve seen no evidence that they have been taught to write it. Instead of “stick and ball” manuscript, I feel the teachers in the lower grades need to go back to teaching the D’Nealian method which is an easy transition to cursive. It is also beneficial to children with reading difficulties, including dyslexia. After a semester long subbing assignment, I found in the second semester of sixth grade, many of the students had illegible manuscript skills with the first set of spelling papers that I graded. I immediately began nine weeks of combining their spelling with handwriting and presentation based on D’Nealian manuscript followed by the next nine weeks of cursive. During that semester, I saw considerable improvement in both handwriting, spelling and writing skills. It is something to consider, as without these skills, how will our children be able to read historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence or many of their own family’s history which is left behind in wills, deeds, and personal memoirs of their ancestry? Thank you, Carla Bass

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