Lynne Cherry, . . Scholastic/Blue Sky, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-439-32371-0

Fact and fiction make fruitful partners in Cherry's (The Great Kapok Tree) cheerful account of a young groundhog's successful efforts to plant a vegetable garden. After Squirrel scolds Little Groundhog for feasting on the bounty of others' gardens, the fellow apologizes and admits he doesn't know how to plant his own. Squirrel willingly becomes his mentor, sharing her ample horticultural knowledge as she offers a chatty guide to planning, planting, tending, transplanting and harvesting a garden. Cherry's detailed, impressively precise renderings of the garden's offerings (traced from seeds, through seedlings to final product) and of the woodland animals who lend a gardening hand should easily snare the attention of aspiring green-thumbers; marginalia appear as detailed as scientific notebook sketches, artfully arranged in borders around the main action. The author interjects environmental messages, as when Wren and Praying Mantis strike a deal with Little Groundhog: "If you promise not to harm us with bug spray, we birds and insects will help you with your garden. We will eat the harmful insects that hurt your plants." Youngsters may well find this fledgling gardener's exuberance infectious ("It's beautiful! Scrumptious! Irresistible!" he exclaims as he prepares to share his homegrown food with his friends). If not tempted to grab a hoe, readers are at least likely to view the vegetables on their dinner plates with greater appreciation. Ages 4-up. (Feb.)