Summer gardens are in full swing! Green beans, tomatoes, sunflowers, cucumbers, squash, okra, melons, basil, corn, eggplant, peppers, and more. This is such a colorful, juicy, flavorful season…perfect for garden adventures with kids. Now is the time to plan outings to community gardens, farmers’ markets, and farm stands, and befriend neighbors with gardens. You’ll see what grows well in your area and gather lots of ideas for what you might plant in your own garden.

To get young ones interested in the joys of summer gardening, be sure to check out some of the many wonderful picture books on the subject. Here are a few of my favorites, geared for toddlers to new readers, that show us summer’s bounty, provide ideas on what to do with bumper crops, introduce us to a rainbow of colors to look for in fruits and vegetables, and offer poems celebrating the very best of seasonal garden flavors.

Busy Gardens, and Bees!

Allie’s Garden

illustrated by Marla Osborn and written by Sabra Chebby

This cheerful, colorful board book with rhyming text shows a little girl gathering the ingredients for a simple summer garden salad. While harvesting in the garden, the girl encounters a number of different critters. Featuring photos of the garden produce and animals constructed of fruit and veggies with simple illustrations of the little girl and her basket, this is a perfect book for very young children. It shows some of the animals in the garden ecosystem, the bounty a garden may offer, and the reward of eating the harvest.

Zora’s Zucchini*

written by Katherine Pryor and illustrated by Anna Raff

This story stars Zora, a creative, enthusiastic gardener who comes up with great ideas for sharing her plentiful garden harvest, ideas that could be useful for other summer gardeners, too! It’s only the third day of summer vacation, and Zora is feeling a little bit bored, until she comes across some free zucchini plants. She makes a good home for the plants, and before she knows it, is knee deep in zucchini. She and her family eat it for three meals a day, she shares with neighbors, and she sets up a veggie swap. I love the ideas this book offers for sharing garden harvests and connecting with our communities.

*This book is a part of our Kids Book Club!

Bea’s Bees

by Katherine Pryor and illustrated by Ellie Peterson

Curious Bea loves visiting a bee hive on her walk through the park every day in this informative book. When the bees are gone one day, Bea goes on a research mission to learn everything she can about them. This story offers a great introduction to the important work bees do as pollinators, and Bea teaches us to plant wildflower seeds that will help feed the bees. Learn more about bees, how you can help them, and Whole Kids Foundation’s bee work!

Peppa Pig and the Vegetable Garden

Peppa and George Pig help their Grandpa in his garden, and they learn a lot. They discover snails and worms, help plant seeds, and construct a scarecrow to keep the birds away. Mummy Pig harvests blackberries (from a huge blackberry bush!) to make a pie, and George and Peppa pick vegetables for lunch. Even though George says he doesn’t like salad, he tries it and loves it after Grandpa Pig makes a dinosaur-shaped salad. This accessible book featuring favorite characters covers the highlights of summer garden activities.

Summer Colors in the Garden

Edible Colors

by Jennifer Vogel Bass

This book shows the amazing colors of produce, some expected and many surprising! Summer is a great time to spot and taste some of these, like green zebra tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, Amarillo watermelon, purple beans, purple corn, black raspberries, white queen tomatoes, and more. It’s also a perfect time to collect ideas for which of these unusual varieties grow well in your area, and which ones you might have fun planting. One of my favorite things about gardening is growing things that are hard to find in a market, and this book shares great ideas of specific produce items that would be fun and interesting to grow.

This book also offers great potential to fuel readers’ enthusiasm to seek out some of these unexpected colors. It could be fun to do some taste testing. Line up as many colors of tomatoes or melons as you can find, and sample them side by side. What do you notice about different flavors and textures?

Poetry Celebrating Garden Goodies

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons

If you are waiting for tomatoes to turn from green to red, or eating sun-warmed plums, or biting into juicy peaches, this lovely book offering seasonal poems captures those moments is for you. Here’s a favorite:

June 15: You can taste the sunshine

And the buzzing

And the breeze

While eating berries off the bush

On berry hands

And berry knees

Fresh Delicious: Poems from the Farmers’ Market

By Irene Latham, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi

Another charming book of poetry, this one focuses on farmers’ market treasures, many of which you will find at the summer markets—or maybe even growing in your own summer garden! These verses make keen observations and explore questions like: Why is an ear of corn called an ear? Did you ever notice that basil looks like minty green butterfly wings? And how summer squash looks like punctuation marks! (Crookneck looks like question marks; button squash looks like periods; zucchini looks like exclamation marks!)

These two books are wonderful inspiration for writing poems about favorite summer garden moments. What’s yours? Head out to a garden with a pencil and a notebook, and try writing down a few lines about a favorite summer garden fruit, veggie, or flower.

To see these gardening books and more, please join me @thepicturebookcook on Instagram.


Kate Rowe loves picture books, reading, gardening, cooking, and talking about all of these things! She shares picture book recommendations paired with food adventures @thepicturebookcook on Instagram. She is a writer, editor, and parent of two young book-loving garden helpers.