Book Reviews

Book Review: Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Messner/Neal)

Kate Messner has written a book on something I have never really enjoyed—gardening—and made it fun.  Throughout the book your children meet a young girl and her grandmother and watch as they care for their garden through the four seasons of the year, beginning with spring. Not only do they care for their garden, but Messner zooms in on the animals and insects who help our work. 

Messner and Silas help children (and adults like me) to see how insects, worms, and skunks(!) help plants to grow. They will learn which bugs are helpful, harmful, and fun to have around. Every page alternates between the phrases “down in the dirt” and “up in the garden.” Your kids will get to see how we partner with the bug and insects in order for plants and vegetables to grow. We spread compost while pill bugs chew through last year’s leaves. The dreaded tomato hornworm rests underground while aboveground a robin finds a beetle, a cricket, and some grub. Skunks work at night, gobbling up cutworms that chew our plants. Snakes slither across the ground to eat grasshoppers and other bugs, and Nana and the girl tie together sunflowers in September to make a house under which they can read. 

The book ends with information about many of the animals and bugs found throughout the book, the ones that are helpful and the ones that are not.  


The book is generally not filled with bright colors, which I think is great. And my kids don’t mind. They enjoy hearing about the different bugs and what they do, and the different ways that Nana and the girl have fun together while they work. I’ve said it already, but we really enjoy reading this book to our kids. If you still aren’t sure, this book has 2,610 ratings on Amazon, 88% are 5 star reviews. 

Not only that, but I just found out that this is part of a series of book, the Over and Under series. Check them out below. 


  • Series: Over and Under
  • Author: Kate Messner
  • Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal
  • Reading Level: 3–7 years
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (March 3, 2015)

Buy it on Amazon or from Chronicle Kids

Disclosure: I received this book free from Chronicle Kids. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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