Written by Phyllis Root and Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Published by Candlewick Press in 2016
Grades PreK – 3
Just in time for Earth Day and in anticipation of the coming growing season, Phyllis Root’s new picture book celebrates the simplicity and power of the act of gardening. “For an anywhere fam, here’s all that you need: / soil / and sunshine, / some water, / a seed.” This opening line sets the stage for a rhythmic romp, an exploration of how any kind of environment can be conducive to growth: “An old empty lot / makes a good growing plot. / But a pan or a bucket, / a pot or a shoe, / a bin or a tin, / or a window will do.” Both the questions that are used to introduce each verse and the lively rhyming text invite readers to predict and to participate. The text is entertaining and informative; readers learn about seed growth, types of vegetables, and pollination. G. Brian Karas’s mixed media illustrations are truly inclusive, encouraging readers of all backgrounds and abilities to see themselves as potential “anywhere” farmers. Ripe for classroom exploration, this engaging book will have you and your students out planting in no time flat.
Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom
Grades PreK – 3
Designing a Garden. Invite your students to imagine a garden of their own creation. Offer art materials and a challenge to include unusual containers as part of the garden design (for inspiration, revisit Anywhere Farm to view “corn in a horn.”) Consider offering students as inspiration photographic images of unique gardens (a Google Images search for “unusual gardens” turns up wonderful material). Students’ garden designs can be 2D or 3D. Offer an opportunity for students to share their design and to describe their garden and design process to their classmates.
Personalizing the Text. Students can innovate on the text that Phyllis Root offers, creating their own personalized book. Use the questions posed in Anywhere Farm as a frame for student written responses. For example, students respond to, “Where can you plant your anywhere farm?” using words and images. After writing and drawing their answers to each of the questions posed by the author, students can bind their completed pages into a book to be shared with classmates and family (or create an e-book version that can be shared visually).
Container Gardening. Phyllis Root’s book is a clear invitation to try your hand at container gardening. Recruit support from your parent community, the local extension service, and/or a local garden center to plan and carry out a container garden project at your school site (in your classroom, in a courtyard, or on a playground). Document the steps in your process, inviting students to draw garden plans, to keep garden journals, and take photos and/ or make short videos (just think of all the literacy learning possibilities!).
Garden Text Set. Anywhere Farm is a welcome addition to a set of texts that focuses on edible plants, gardening, and farming. Begin with the listings offered in the Classroom Bookshelf entries for Planting the Wild Garden; Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant; and It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden. Expand the study with digital texts, guest speakers, and hands on exploration.
Going on a Garden Hunt. Gardens large and small can be found in surprising places. Invite your students to go on a garden hunt – either on a class field trip around your community, or on their own with parental support. Use digital cameras to capture images of the gardening sites you find. If possible, talk to the person who planted the garden – what are their reasons for growing? Then compare the images considering: What is different about each place where plant growth is encouraged? What is the same? What kinds of containers are used? What kinds of fences, borders, or boundaries are needed? Combine images and student composed text to create a photo essay featuring the gardens in your community.
Finding the Rhymes. The text of Anywhere Farm is full of wonderful rhyming pairs. Reread the book and ask students to identify the rhymes as they hear them. List their responses on chart paper; examine the spellings of the rhyming pairs to note any spelling patterns. Extend this study by listing a variety of edible plants. Play with rhymes to see if you can identify any rhyming pairs that could be extended into phrases and illustrated.
Readers Theater. Anywhere Farm is ripe for perfomance! Invite your students to consider how they might orally dramatize this text. The question and answer format along with the rhyming text make this an ideal text for a reader’s theater exploration. Decide on parts, assign verbal roles, and perform the book for school community members or a parent audience.
Vegetable / Fruit Identification. Read Anywhere Farm along with Grace Lin’s The Ugly Vegetables and April Pulley Sayre’s Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant. Invite students to consider which vegetables and fruits are familiar to them and which they have never before encountered. Arrange for a visit from a local chef or grocer who would be willing to bring in a wide variety of vegetables and fruits from different regions to talk about how they taste and how they are used in cooking. If it is allowed at your school, invite students to taste test unfamiliar ones. Then offer students a set of picture cards and word cards and invite your students to match the image with the word. A pocket chart is well suited to this activity, but you might also create digital flashcards or use a SmartBoard.
Duet Model with Up, Down, and All Around. The picture book Up, Down, and All Around written and illustrated by Katherine Ayers is a perfect pairing with Anywhere Farm. After reading these two texts, invite students to compare: the information offered in each book; the text structure and rhyme scheme; and the illustrations and the relationship between the illustrations and the text. After experiencing these two texts and learning more about edible plants and how they grow, students can be invited to compose and illustrate their own picture books to share their learning.
Community Garden Text Set. Work with your school and public librarian to gather a set of garden books that focus specifically on community gardening, for example George Ancona’s wonderful photo essay It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden. Add additional texts that describe the process of starting a community garden, such as this ‘how to’ guide from the American Community Gardening Association. If you have a community garden in your vicinity, invite the founder(s) of the garden to visit your classroom to talk about how the garden was established. If you do not have a community garden nearby, consider how you might go about starting one.
Garden Poetry. With its rhyming text and organization in verses that are introduced by questions Anywhere Farm is a picture book poem. Share other farming poetry with students, such as the poems found in Michelle Schaub’s Fresh Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmer’s Market or Pat Mora’s Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico!: Americas’ Sproutings” Invite your students to try their hand at composing gardening / farming poetry.
Social Justice / Critical Literacy
Gardening and Healthy Food Choices. Read a collection of texts that make the connection between healthy eating and gardening, such as: The Good Garden: How One Family Went From Hunger to Having Enough, The White House Garden and How it Grew, Watch Me Grow: A Down-to-Earth Look at Growing Food in the City, and It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden. Ask students to keep track of the number of fresh fruits and vegetables that they are able to eat during a week. Chris Butterworth’s How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?: The Story of Food is a good resource to support conversations about the sources of our food. Older students may be interested in reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat. For an even more in depth exploration, have students watch the trailer for the documentary film A Place at the Table: One Nation. Underfed and launch an inquiry into the problem of child hunger in our country. This Teaching Invitation originally appeared in a previous Classroom Bookshelf entry.
Candlewick Press Teacher Resources for Anywhere Farm
Phyllis Root: Bio
G. Brian Karas Illustrator’s Website
10 Steps to Starting a Community Garden
KidsGardening.Org: Designing a School Garden: Consider Container Gardening https://www.kidsgardening.org/designing-a-school-garden-consider-container-gardening/
The Sustainable Table
The Edible Schoolyard
Farm to School
Stone Barns Center
Farm Service Agency: Kids
Trailer: Documentary: A Place at the Table
Ayres, K. (2007). Up, down, and around. Ill. by N.B. Wescott. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Azarian, M. (2000). A gardener’s alphabet. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Butterworth, C. (2011). How did that get in my lunchbox?: The story of food. Ill. by L. Gaggiotti. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Ehlert, L. (1987). Growing vegetable soup. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.
Gourley, R. (2011). The White House garden and how it grew. Boston: Clarion Books.
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Hodge, D. (2011). Watch me grow: A down-to-earth look at growing food in the city. Photos by B. Harris. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.
Hodge, D. (2010). Up we grow: A year in the life of a small, local farm. Photos by B. Harris. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.
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Lin, G. (1999). The ugly vegetables. Watertown, MA: Talewinds.
Milway, K.S. (2010). The good garden: How one family went from hunger to having enough. Ill. by S. Daigneault. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.
Mora, P. (2007). Yum! mmmm! que rico!: Americas’ sproutings. Ill. by R. Lopez. New York: Lee & Low.
Pollen, M. (2009).The omnivore’s dilemma: The secrets behind what you eat. Adapted by R. Chevat. New York: Dial Books.
Schaub, M. (2017). Fresh picked poetry: A day at the farmer’s market. Ill. by A. Huntington. Cambridge, MA: Charlesbridge.
Zoehfeld, K. W. (2012). Secrets of the garden: Food chains and the food web in our backyard. Ill. by P. Lamott. New York: Knopf.
About Erika Thulin Dawes
Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.
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