This charming duo of board books by Indiana children’s author Rebecca Mullin explores the wonder of gardening in a way that is accessible to all ages.
The first book of the pair, One Tomato, was released in 2021 and appeared on the 2022 Indiana Authors Awards children’s shortlist. The sun shines brightly in this lovely counting concept book for the youngest of readers, inviting them outside to explore the garden that grows their food and the plants and animals to be found there. Each two-page spread contains just enough details for naming and discussion with children, and the rounded edge design of this sturdy board book makes it an all-season companion for many rereads.
With a Midwestern nod to our ever-present dandelions, illustrator Anna Mullin “hides” a yellow flower in each scene, sure to create more delight as they are discovered. One Tomato serves as an excellent introduction to both counting and the growth cycle of the food we eat.
The Mullins’ second book, Purple Carrot, which was released this month, follows the growth cycle from planting to harvest on inviting two-page spreads, complete with helpful bees. Wander the garden in wonder with your young reader, as you name the colors together—tiny black seeds to be dropped deep in rich brown soil; bright green shoots sprouting into leaves; snowy white blossoms blooming in splendor. In the end, a rainbow of vegetables culminates this satisfying trip through the growing season.
Rebecca’s text in Purple Carrot is perfectly matched to the attention and interest of its preschool audience, with poetic short sentences designed to be echoed by children as they are read aloud. Anna’s charming illustrations echo the bright palette of One Tomato and offer a variety of small details for young hands to point out and name, including animals and insects to spy in the garden as well as that familiar hardy yellow dandelion who hides in each spread.
Rebecca’s respect for both children and the natural world is evident in each page of this sweet duo, and gardeners of every generation will carefully plant these books in their nightly reading stack again and again.
Cynthia Compton is the owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville and MacArthur Books in Carmel, Ind. She founded 4 Kids in 2003, and the store has since moved and expanded into its current location, offering a robust event schedule, school outreach and large summer reading program. The store was honored with the Pannell Award in 2014 and has received numerous “best of” recognitions and community partnership awards. MacArthur Books, founded in 2022, is a general bookstore in the Village of West Clay, with a busy schedule of author visits, book signings, reader book clubs and events. As an active volunteer in the bookselling industry, Cynthia currently serves as the Vice President of the American Booksellers Association Board of Directors. She was the president of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and a board member of the American Specialty Toy Retailers. She is a frequent contributor to the Shelftalker column in Publishers Weekly and serves on several local and regional organization boards serving literacy, child welfare and animal rescue.
Rebecca Mullin is an avid gardener, bookseller and mother of four young girls. Rebecca wrote One Tomato and Purple Carrot to recreate the joy of picking home-grown vegetables and to teach her children to identify the vegetables they grow and eat. She worked at Kids Ink Children’s Bookstore in Indianapolis for 11 years and was a Board Member of the Great Lakes Independent Bookseller Association for three years. Rebecca now lives in Eau Claire, Wis., with her husband, daughters and an ever-expanding garden.
Monthly reviews of books written by Indiana authors are made possible by the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards and Indiana Humanities. Opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the reviewer, not any affiliated entity.