My Busy Green Garden, Author Interview + a Giveaway!

What first drew me to My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House Publishers), by author Terry Pierce and illustrator Carol Schwartz, was its colorful cover. On it were some of my favorite flowers – daisies, lilies, a purple coneflower. Oh, wait. There were insects, too? A praying mantis, a honeybee, a ladybug. The closer I looked, the more details caught my eye. I opened this book wondering how the inside could possibly match the gorgeous exterior.

Talk about exceeding expectations! What I found set my flower-gardening heart a-flutter. Look! (Note:  I took these with my phone, so imagine how bright and beautiful the actual book is!)

Ooh, the paper! Thick and lustrous, and each spread is surrounded by crisp, white margins. That makes each page turn feel almost like you’re wandering an art gallery, heart speeding up as you discover painting after painting by a delightful new artist. I chose to crop the margins only because … um … I was holding the book flat with my toes. So.

Let’s talk about the text. Terry uses cumulative rhyme to its best effect here. Each page is packed with details and feels so natural, so effortless. From mid-book:

This is an inchworm who creeps up and down,
dodging the hummingbird fluttering ‘round
the hurrying honeybee buzzing below
the red spotted ladybug dawdling so,
near the surprise
in clever disguise
that hangs in my busy green garden.

Isn’t that text delicious to read aloud? Kids will eat it up! And can you see what the “surprise” is? Readers get to follow the creature’s “clever disguise” throughout the book, watching as it undergoes metamorphosis.

I wanted to ask Terry a bit about her process. So let’s get to it.

Jill:  Do  you remember why you wrote this book, the inciting idea?

Terry:  I wanted to write a cumulative story with fun, active language (I love playing with language!). I was thinking about stories that my Montessori students loved and I remembered Arnold Lobel’s, THE ROSE IN MY GARDEN. I pulled it off my bookshelf and ended up using it as a mentor text, following a similar meter. But I wanted a different focus, and knowing how much children love insects, decided to go with a garden setting with a focus on bugs and other garden critters.

Jill:  Did you always have in mind a House-That-Jack-Built format?

Terry:  Yes. My book, BLACKBERRY BANQUET, is a cumulative story and I enjoyed writing that one so much, I wanted to write another one.

Jill:  What was it like working with a small publisher?

Terry: Tilbury House has been terrific to work with (and still is–I have another picture book under contract with them!). The editorial staff was quick to start moving on the project, and even sent me a list of possible illustrators and asked for my input (we all agreed on Carol Schwartz, whose work is a-mazing). My editor sent me regular updates on the project once it was in the illustration phase. And their sales and marketing teams have been great to work with. I’d say working with a smaller publisher is more “hands on” than working with a large publisher.

Jill: How did you feel when you saw how your story had been illustrated?

Terry: When I first saw Carol Schwartz’s work, I knew she was the perfect illustrator for the book. Her use of bold, rich colors with fine realistic detail were exactly the kind of art this book required. And she did an amazing job of changing the perspectives, which is no easy task when the entire story takes place in the same garden! The opening double-page spread is one of my favorite illustrations (along with the praying mantis spread). That first scene reminds me of the Highlights magazine “hidden picture” puzzles I enjoyed as a child–except this one was in full color and gorgeous! Carol included 13 different kinds of animals on that spread (multiples of some, such as the butterflies). It really is fun to watch people find all the animals (and dare I say, children seem to find the animals more easily than adults!).

Jill:  Thanks for stopping by, Terry! (And I loved Hidden Pictures, too!)

If you’re a regular reader, you know how we love book giveaways around here. For a chance at owning a copy of My Busy Green Garden (not the one that knows my toes), simply leave a comment below.

Speaking of contests, the WINNER of Sue Lowell Gallion’s Pug Meets Pig is ……… JANET METZGER! Janet, please contact Sue through her website  and she’ll make sure you get a copy!

A shameless personal plug:
Those of you who like board books might want to follow my daughter Kerri’s blog, Books for Babies. She posts every Friday about her toddler daughter’s current favorite. Kid tested!

Teachers! Want kids to ENJOY writing? Please, please, please check out a new book by educational consultant (and former teacher) Mike Leannah, We Think With Ink. I had a chance to read the ARC, and I found many, many ways I can use the book, not just with elementary/middle school kids, but with adult writers. Believe me, this one is superlative. Don’t miss it!


Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum is the author of many picture books. Her latest is How to Grow a Dinosaur. Other recent titles are Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, and I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! Learn more at


  1. I love to read books that play with language. The excerpt makes me want to read more. And the illustrations…absolutely gorgeous.

  2. I love to read books that play with language. The excerpts make me want to read more. The illustrations are gorgeous.

  3. Thanks for the great post, Jill and Terry. What a beautiful book-congratulations!

  4. This looks delightful -the art and verse feel classic!

  5. This looks beautiful and my student’s at my agricultural elementary school would love this! I love the brightly colored illustrations…makes me happy and hopeful for spring as we are getting hit with close to 2 feet of snow!!! Thanks for the chance to win!

    • Two feet, Michelle–oh no! I love that you work at an agricultural elementary. My publisher, Tilbury House, is working on adding educational materials to accompany the book, hopefully soon.

  6. I love cumulative PB stories and this one makes my gardening heart take wing! (Jill, I think you should have included the toes in the shot of the spread—cuz’ who doesn’t like walking in the garden with bare feet?!)

  7. Beautiful blend of illst. and words.

  8. Oooh, I love gardens and l love well written rhyming text, so I cannot wait to get my hands on this book! The art looks amazing too.

    • Thanks, Debra. Yes, well-written rhyme is the only way to go. As one fourth-grader said to me after hearing me read the story, “I really appreciate that you wrote a story in rhyme that actually sounds good.” Kids! 😉

  9. I read the pdf of this book as soon as it came out and absolutely loved it. The rhyme and meter are perfect and the story is captivating. Writing cumulative stories is like putting together a puzzle – each part must fit perfectly for the plot to work. That feat – together with the astonishingly gorgeous art – make this a spectacular book. Congratulations, Terry and Carol!

  10. My gardener’s heart was turning somersaults as a read this post! Such beautiful artwork along with the rich text earns this pb a permanent place on my shelf! Reminds me of gardening side by side with my grandmother. Lovely!

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    Andrea LeGore Donahoe

    What a perfect post for a wintry morning. I can’t wait for garden season!

  12. I love this type of book. And so do kids! I have been a fan of Carol Schwartz’s art for years, so this book is a must-have. Thanks for the great post.

  13. We love Blackberry Banquet at our library – can’t wait to see this one!

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    Stacy Digianantonio

    This book looks fun and the illustrations are so bright and beautiful!

  15. Great post and beautiful book. Congratulations, Terry!

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    Kathy Mazurowski

    Beautiful language and thoughts. Perfect for my Hope for spring (when winter returned yesterday). Thanks!

  17. This looks so lovely…can’t wait to read it…and to see the gardens start growing!

  18. Gorgeous book, Terry. Congrats! And Jill, I love how you describe it, down to the texture of the paper pages. Book love!

  19. What a beautiful book! Congratulations!

  20. This is a book I feel I could step into! I have a degree in horticulture and worked at the Butterfly Pavilion for 4 years, so I am in my element in a garden!! Love your book! And I’d love to share it with my granddaughters!! ♡♡ Thanks for writing such an awesome book!!

  21. It is gorgeous. Looking forward to reading it myself!

  22. Thank you, Jill! What a lovely review :). Funny how when I first saw the cover, my eye went straight to that purple cone flower. You don’t see too many of them illustrated in children’s books and Carol’s attention to the details are stunning. I’m very fortunate to have her illustrate my work!

    • So true about the coneflowers! It was a pleasure to show off your book, Terry, and especially to learn a bit more about it in your interview. 🙂

  23. Congrats to you, Terry!!! I’m a nature girl too, and this looks like my kind of book. The illustrations are gorgeous!!

    Thanks for sharing, Jill :)!!

  24. What a gorgeous book visually. The text sample proved it is amazing to read as well. Wow! Just wonderful!

  25. What a beautiful book both from the word AND illustration perspectives! Especially gorgeous while we’re having an enormous blizzard here in NH. 🙂

  26. Gorgeous illustrations and lively and lyrical language. I can’t wait to read this one!

  27. The artwork is amazing and the poetry you printed here is fresh and fun. Thanks for telling me about this book. I will be reading it soon.

  28. Beautiful text and illustrations!

  29. That is a gorgeous book. And the bouncing illustrations make me want to read it. I know kids feel the same. Thank you!

  30. What a lovely book.

  31. I love the book. The colors pop, even when photographed using a phone. BTW, I’m totally using that toe trick next time I need to photograph a book.

  32. I love this cumulative story and that you took the pics while hold gin the book open w/your foie. Very clever, Jill. Masterful rhyme and lush ills. I’d love to win it.

  33. Beautiful

  34. Mercy! This book is absolutely gorgeous! A treat for the soul.

  35. This may round out my summer book collection for my book reviews! I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing.

  36. This is my kind of book. I love gardens, and Terry’s language is delightful. A must read!

  37. What a perfect book to read with spring! I love the idea of this story. I can’t wait to read it! Thank you for sharing.

  38. Gorgeous! Those cumulative rhymes are infectious – gets the kids going right along with it!

  39. This book looks fantastic! I love Carol Schwartz’s work (and just realized she illustrated 2 of my books.) I also adore working with Tilbury House. Congrats Terry on another lovely book!

  40. Terry,
    This book makes me want to get out in my own garden still covered in snow. It looks delicious!

  41. My Busy Green Garden looks like a must read – especially for the desert dweller kids I work with whose experience with growing things involves prickles and spikes! =)

  42. This book looks like it will become a favorite of this gardener!

  43. What a lovely sounding book! Thanks for reviewing it and sharing it with us all. I am always on the lookout for books to read with the kids.

  44. I think my 85-year-old dad will enjoy this as much as my 1-year-old grandson! Looks like a keeper!

    • The “hidden picture” component is fun for adults, too. I’ve had adult friends pour over the opening spread searching for all the animals (16 total, 14 different kinds).

  45. This book makes me wish for Spring, more than ever!

  46. What can I say that hasn’t already been stated about MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN? The lovely lyrical language and gorgeous illustrations make this gardener happy. Spring is around the corner and soon it will be time to plant–time to be busy in my green garden of flowers and vegetables.

    Thank you, Terry & Jill.

  47. Bugs and hidden pictures–my personal book enthusiasts will love this one.

  48. Ohh! Sounds like a wonderful read for my classroom. I can’t wait to share it with my students.


  50. Great post, Jill and Terry!! This looks gorgeous.
    And Jill: I LOVED the mental image of you using your toes to help take the photo. 🙂

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