Sunday, May 5, 2013

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America, by Kathi Appelt (ages 6 - 9)

The flowers all around us astound me at this time of year. It makes me remember hiking through the California hills with my mother, noticing all the different flowers around us. These memories drew me to this picture book biography about Lady Bird Johnson, but what makes it stick in my mind is how it shows us the way that each one of us can make a difference by taking action, starting with small steps and moving larger.
Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers
How a First Lady Changed America
by Kathi Appelt
illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein
HarperCollins, 2005
at your public library
on Amazon
ages 6 - 9
This picture book biography weaves together two tales, one of Miss Lady Bird Johnson's life story, and the other of her passionate work to spread wildflowers and beauty throughout our country.

Lady Bird grew up in eastern Texas in the early 20th century, finding solace in the wildflowers and bayous after her mother died. I loved the image of her as a young girl holding ceremonies for the first daffodils that bloomed each spring. Appelt writes,
"It was as if Aunt Effie's flowers became companions and helped take some of Lady Bird's loneliness away."
After Lady Bird moved to Washington, D.C. when her husband was elected to Congress, she realized that the city parks were dingy and had few flowers. Appelt quotes Johnson as telling a friend,
"It is important for a child to plant a seed, to water it, to nourish it, tend to it, watch it grow, and when he does, and when she does, they themselves will grow into great citizens." -- Lady Bird Johnson
image copyright © Joy Fisher Hein, 2005
Johnson followed this passion by urging Congress to pass the Highway Beautification Act, and later in her life, establishing the National Wildflower Research Center. Have you ever noticed wildflowers growing along the side of a highway? Or traveled to Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms? Or marveled at a city landscape with native flowers? Much of those are the direct result of Johnson's efforts.

The scene that stands out in my mind is how she stepped in front of her neighbor's tractor on her Texas ranch, imploring him not to plow under a field of pink evening primroses. It's this gusto, this initiative that captures her energy, creativity and determination to keep wildflowers growing throughout our land.

Appelt and Hein capture her energy and love of beauty in a way that inspires me. Hein shares more of her artwork from the book at her website. She also shares a nice teacher's guide. I particularly loved the interview with Appelt and Hein about this book at Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog Cynsations.
For more nonfiction gems to share with your children, check out Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by Anastasia Suen at her Booktalking site.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, HarperCollins. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. Love this book. Thanks for reminding me to give it a re-read!


  2. Beautiful cover art and illustration work. I love the quote so very much!

  3. I'm so getting this! My mom-in-law's a proud Texan and would love it!