Plant Secrets book cover image

Plant Secrets

  • 795

By: Emily Goodman / Illustrated by: Phyllis Limbacher Tildes

Look for the SECRET hidden inside . . .

Plants come in all shapes and sizes, but they go through the same stages as they grow. Using four common plants, young readers learn about a plant's life cycles. Simple text and colorful illustrations show the major phases of plant growth: seed, plant, flower, and fruit. Back matter offers more information on each plant, as well as on each stage of growth.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Emily Goodman, author

Emily Goodman, a trained horticulturist, has written for many children's magazines, including Highlights and Apple Seeds. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read more about Emily.

Phyllis Limbacher Tildes, illustrator

Phyllis Limbacher Tildes exhibited artistic talent at the age of two and a half when she presented her mother with a drawing of a butterfly, followed by a man selling peanuts at a peanut stand. She was anxious to follow her older brother and sister to school in Stratford, Connecticut, where she was soon writing poems and stories to illustrate and give to family and friends.

Read more about Phyllis.

Awards & Honors:

  • Nebraska Farm Bureau Agricultural Children's Book of the Year, Grades K-3
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

Seeds, plants, flowers, fruit. Did you know all of these have secrets? Shown a selection of seeds readers are told, "But all of these seeds have a secret." A turn of the page and the secret is revealed: "Hidden inside each seed is a tiny new plant." The next sections similarly cover plants, then flowers and fruit. Although a variety of plant materials are shown, the focus throughout narrows to pea, tomato, oak, and rose. Employing a repetitive secret-sharing theme, this very simple introduction to botany combines brief, succinct text with attractive, detailed gouche illustrations. By not specifically identifying which plant, seed or flower is which among the four profiled varieties, readers are given the opportunity to make their own educated guesses. After the last delicious secret is revealed--that seeds are hidden inside each fruit--a more detailed afterword provides additional information about the four types of plants that were covered. Brief enough to appeal even to toddlers, this excellent effort also includes sufficient information to entertain and instruct young grade-schoolers.

School Library Journal

Children will look at plants with new eyes after reading this fresh introduction. The plant cycle is introduced, beginning and ending with seeds. After a short description of the many variations of a particular stage, the next page states, "But all these [plants, flowers, fruits, etc.] have a SECRET." Readers are asked if they can identify four key plants (peas, oak trees, tomatoes, roses) at each transition. Using recognizable descriptions, e.g. "round, like plates" or "like balls of fuzz" and getting no more scientific than "pollen," the text will draw readers into the wonder of the topic. Bold color-coded headings introduce each of the four stages. Realistic spot illustrations, beginning with the endpapers, present the variety described in the text. Only the closing endpapers include labels but identification of the other plants, both common and unusual, could be part of the fun. At each transition, the four key plants are framed by the lens of a magnifying glass. End matter includes further detail about each stage and the plant that represents it, e.g., peas for seeds, oak trees for plants, roses for flowers, and tomatoes for fruit. Use this well-designed volume as the perfect launch to a unit on plants.


This fully illustrated presentation introduces the "secrets" at each stage of a typical plant's life cycle, starting with the seed and returning to it: the seed hides "a tiny new plant," the plant can make a flower, the flower has the potential fruit within it, and the fruit contains a seed. The idea of a plant's life cycle is developed through four examples simultaneously: the rose, the oak, the pea, and the tomato. In large-scale gouache paintings, other plants also appear on some pages, adding color and variety but also, potentially, a bit of confusion. Keeping the four main plants and the four stages of growth straight is probably complicated enough for the young audience targeted in this large-format book. The pages concentrating on those plants are pleasing in their simplicity and clarity. Throughout the book, the sentences are short and nicely cadenced for reading aloud. A good, early introduction to the stages of plant growth.

NSTA Recommends

This book on the structure and life cycle of plants is unique in a number of ways. Large type makes the prose easy for beginning readers, with predictable patterns but highly accurate science content. The content focuses on the way plants grow and reproduce. The content is delivered simply, with an emphasis on similarities and differences among the plants depicted.

Each page jumps out at readers. The accompanying illustrations are spectacular, providing opportunities for inquiry after group reading of the text at each page, or at a station. At the end, there is a nice section providing background information for those who may not feel they are experts in life science. It is also a great section for stronger readers.

The use of pattern in prose is an appropriate way to get young readers involved in the story. Providing accurate collections of drawings from which students can find the answers to questions is a great way to integrate inquiry with reading. For example, students can try to identify the plants from which seeds come at the start of the story. Later in the text, diagrams of the plants with their seeds can confirm student guesses. Nicely written and illustrated--well worth keeping!

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

First comes the seed, then the plant, then the flower, next the seed-bearing fruit that will complete the circle. This staple lesson from primary science curricula is refashioned here as a nature mystery, with each stage holding a "secret" for listeners to guess as they move systematically through the cycle. While there may be nothing particularly novel about Goodman's topic, her presentation is notable for a text precisely geared to a primary audience, and its explicit nod to the fact that, although flora pass through all four states, we tend to associate various plants with a single point in their development: e.g., peas as seeds, oak trees as plants, roses as flowers, and tomatoes as fruit. Tildes' gouache paintings are more distinguished for detail than composition, with carefully delineated examples of each developmental stage scattered across milky white space. With its generous size and bright colors, this title should perform well in a classroom setting as well as satisfy individual children whose horticultural curiosity has just begun to bud.


ISBN: 978-1-58089-205-6

ISBN: 978-1-60734-131-4 PDF
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Ages: 4-8
Page count: 40
8 1/2 x 11

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