cover image If You Plant a Seed

If You Plant a Seed

Kadir Nelson. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-229889-8

In a skillfully crafted story about the literal and allegorical fruits of the seeds we plant, Nelson (Baby Bear) introduces a group of animals whose farmyard garden becomes a source of food, strife, and reconciliation. Nelson's emphatic sentences stretch across multiple pages, underscoring the patience necessary to see seeds mature into plants: "If you plant a tomato seed,/ a carrot seed,/ and a cabbage seed,/ in time/ with love and care,/ tomato,/ carrot,/ and cabbage/ plants will grow." A small brown rabbit and an even smaller brown mouse, painted in warm realistic detail, are the devoted farmers here, and a wordless scene shows them taking their delighted first bites of produce that gleams in the midday sun. Joy shifts to alarm when five birds descend, their silent intentions very clear. A food fight, the result of a "seed of selfishness," leaves the garden in ruins, but a final sequence about the rewards of planting a "seed of kindness" culminates in an abundance of sunflowers, chard, melons, and more. Nelson adeptly balances whimsical, naturalistic, and instructional ideas to create a story that satisfies on multiple levels. Ages 4%E2%80%938. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Mar.)