Volunteers needed in March!   Click here to sign up.
 Site Areas: 
Printer-friendly version   

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Last updated Monday, November 4, 2019

Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal
Date of Publication: 2015
ISBN: 1452119368
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Nov. 2019

Synopsis: Explore the secret world beneath the dirt that brings the world of nature to life: Up in the garden, the world is full of green—leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt exists a busy world—earthworms dig, snakes hunt, skunks burrow—populated by all the animals that make a garden their home. With Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, you can explore the hidden world and many lives of a garden through the course of a year!

Note to readers:
•  Get familiar with "About the Animals" at end of book so you can talk about each creature as it is mentioned.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Talk about seasons, how weather and plant life changes
•  Who likes bugs? Where do they live? Are they good for anything?
•  Do you know Anyone who has a garden? Note: At Esperanza, they have a school garden they might be able to discuss.


•  brittle (dry) -- hard but breaks easily

•  rusty (like dry leaves) -- reddish or yellowish-brown color

•  squabble -- quarrel noisily over a trivial matter

•  compost -- decayed organic material used as a plant fertilizer

•  pill bugs -- a wood louse that rolls into a ball when threatened

•  suits of armor -- a complete set of pieces of armor for protecting the body

•  furrow -- a long narrow trench made in the ground, especially for planting seeds

•  wilt -- to droop or become limp, often due to heat exposure or lack of water

•  slugs -- a tough-skinned terrestrial mollusk which typically lacks a shell and secretes a film of mucous for protection

•  "cukes" (cucumbers) -- a long, green-skinned fruit, usually eaten raw in salads or pickled

•  burrow -- to make a hole or tunnel

•  scurry -- move hurriedly with short, quick steps

•  hunkered -- crouched down low, or taking shelter

•  biding time -- wait quietly for a good opportunity to do something

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Guess which season we're in as you go through the book
•  Throughout, point out what's going on in the garden besides plants

Craft ideas:
•  Make flowers from tissue
•  Draw a picture of what your family does for Thanksgiving. Discuss how you help prepare for Thanksgiving with your family/friends.
•  Trace around your hand to make a Thanksgiving turkey outline. Color it in.
•  Use dried leaves (if you have some) or cut out leaf shapes in bright colors and make a leaf wreath.
•  Check our craft ideas on Pinterest!

Special activities:
•  Everyone can name a plant food they like. Get ideas from front of book.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!