Family Literacy Day.


Today, January 27, is Family Literacy Day here in Canada! Since its designation in 1999 by ABC Life Literacy Canada, Family Literacy Day is an annual celebration of reading and other activities related to literacy.  “Learn at play, every day” is this year’s slogan, reflecting the link between play and reading and the development of children.

At work this week, I found a couple of picture books that were so appealing I just have to share…the first one is Planting the Wild Garden by Kathyrn O. Galbraith (illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin). Although it’s classified as fiction, it approaches non-fiction in its clear explanation of the many ways seeds can be dispersed by wind, water, animals, and people. I love how everything seems to be moving in this book, expressed in action words and noises: the crisp sound of pods snapping, the “per-chik-o-ree” of a goldfinch, the chomping of raccoons on blackberries. Portions of the text are even printed topsy-turvy on the page, reflecting the constant motion of seeds.  So clever!


(2011, Peachtree Publishers, Georgia)

Well-known children’s book and fantasy author Jane Yolen’s poetry is simple, sweet, and lyrical in Sing A Season Song, and combined with Lisel Jane Ashlock’s spectacular illustrations, this book is positively breathtaking.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t have kids or you’re a long way from being one yourself, it’s worth finding a copy so you can delight in the artistry and beauty.


(2015, Creative Editions, Minnesota) You can find more examples of Ashlock’s art on her website here. Chances are you may have already read a book she’s illustrated or provided the cover art for.

Spend some time reading to or with a child – not just today and not only if you’re Canadian! Kids + books = something magical and amazing!  Adults + books, too…. 🙂





Danger, danger: Red baneberry.

Red baneberry FP

This is one of those “Look but don’t eat” plants: Red baneberry (Actaea rubra) is a very beautiful woodland herbaceous perennial, but all parts of it are poisonous. As an interesting – and decidedly creepy – sidenote, one of its common names is “doll’s eye.”

This specimen was eyeballed (couldn’t resist!) at a campground in southern Alberta, but red baneberry has a fairly wide distribution in the province.  It’s not a plant you’d find in a typical garden setting, however…although I suppose if you had a shady, moist spot, you could try it.

I don’t currently have any extremely toxic plants in my flower garden; I grew foxglove for a few years but haven’t tried any again since they died.  My flowerbeds are on public property and it’s for the best that I don’t grow anything dangerous.  Lately, I keep running into people who seem to think all plants are for the sampling – and it’s not just this lady and her young daughter that I wrote about last year.   I recently talked to someone who seemed to think you could make tea out of any plant that smelled good, and another gardener who chewed on a mystery plant without having the foggiest notion what it was (she still doesn’t know, and neither do I, but apparently it tasted a little like sorrel.  She didn’t report on whether or not she got a stomach ache).  I’m delighted that everyone is so eager to chow down on fresh vegetative matter, but you’d think self-preservation would be more of a concern!   🙂

Do you grow any poisonous plants in your garden?  Do you take any special precautions to keep them out of the reach of children and pets?