Happy Tu B’Shevat! Today’s book review is for Netta and Her Plant, written by Ellie B. Gellman, illustrated by Natascia Ugliano, published by Kar-Ben Publishing. I purchased a copy of this book for my daughter’s library.
One Tu B’Shevat (the Jewish New Year for the trees), little Netta plants a seedling at her pre-school. She brings the plant home and cares for it with love and devotion. A seasons pass, Netta and her plant grow up together. This is a touching story about nurture and growth that celebrates the life cycle.
I’ve been working to add more books with Jewish themes to my daughter’s library, to keep her connected to her heritage. When I saw this book while searching on Amazon, I was immediately drawn to it. The cover art was beautiful and the story would give me opportunity to introduce my daughter to a new holiday.
The narrative prose is gentle and easy to read aloud. There’s a nice structure to the writing, too. The story is told in an episodic structure, with a repeated refrain of “The plant grew. Netta grew.” The structure helps to reinforce the idea of the seasonal cycle, growth, and renewal. Word choices are age appropriate and sentence structures are varied. I appreciate that it doesn’t talk down to children.
I fell in love with the illustrations. Initially I had some reservations about the style, but each time I read with my daughter, I find myself liking the pictures more and more. The images look to be drawn in pencil and then colored with heavily textured colored pencil. There are many beautifully rendered hand-drawn patterns on the clothing of various characters. The characters’ wide-set eyes give the impression of kindness and friendliness. Despite their simple facial features, Ugliano manages to convey great emotional depth on her characters.
This book is a wonderful choice for Jewish parents who want to help their children stay connected to their culture and traditions. It’s also a great choice for other parents who want to expose their children to other cultures. At the end of the book there is a small glossary of Hebrew words used in the text, as well as a short explanation of Tu B’Shevat. It’s also a great way to encourage children to value and feel a deeper connection to the natural world. I’m giving the book 5 stars. It’s a beautifully executed work that can be enjoyed by both parent and child.
You can find more information about this book on Goodreads.