A book that sets out to teach kids about plants and foster a love for gardening is always welcome on my bookshelf and Lesley Tierra’s book is such a book. Written with the goal of inspiring children to explore nature, awaken to the healing power of herbs, and become active in preserving our natural environment, the author produces a book that instills in the reader an appreciation of herbs and the importance of stewardship. The book provides the basics in an enjoyable way for adults as well as children.
The book is organized into eight chapters fortified by five meaty appendices. The author begins by introducing plants as friends using a fairy-tale character named Mr. Greenleaf who guides the reader here and there through the book. We learn about the differences between herbs, spices and weeds, and flora and fauna, as well as how people first learned about herbs and the naming of plants. The informational apart of the chapter is enhanced with a fairy-tale about the magic of herbs, making the plants come alive.
The largest part of the book is devoted to 16 herbs with lots of information given for each including use of the herbs, recipes using the herbs, stories, and sometimes a song composed by the author’s husband, a professional musician. Interesting facts are featured in insets; did you know that in medieval times fennel, St. John’s wort and rosemary were hung over doors on Midsummer’s Eve to ward off evil spirits? Or that there is as much nutrition in slippery elm as there is in a bowl of oatmeal? Of course, there are also tips for using herbs in your everyday life like whitening your teeth with finely ground cinnamon powder. Mothers of small babies might like the suggestions for using chamomile to sooth a crying baby or using the root of licorice to ease the pain of teething. All through the sections on individual plants recipes and directions are given for using herbs medicinally to alleviate discomfort and aid in healing, and cosmetically to enhance skin and hair. The reader is encouraged to taste and feel the herbs so as to become more familiar with it and its special gifts.
Separate chapters are devoted to the subjects of medicinal herbs, culinary herbs, decorative uses of herbs, growing herbs, and throwing an herbal tea party. A final chapter deals ecology; the role of herbs, and the need to protect herbs from harm. As elsewhere, these chapters include recipes, directions, activities, and informative information to stimulate the mind and tickle the imagination. The appendices include data on medicinal use of herbs, state flowers and trees, and a list of resources including correspondence courses for adults, novels for kids, and growing herbs.
A Kid’s Herb Book is definitely a book that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. In fact, I think that it promotes an approach to herbs that involves a close adult-child relationship, and to me, that is its greatest appeal. If you love plants in general or herbs in particular, and want to impart that love to children this is an excellent resource because it contains so many interesting ideas and fun activities that can be shared.