Born to Bloom: Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
Cindy Jenson-Elliott is not the first poet to sing the praises of the lowly but tenacious weed, sometimes the first flower of spring, which finds a way to bloom and seed our world with green, nor is she the first to find a larger theme in their relentless will to live.
WEEDS FIND A WAY TO LIVE
WHERE OTHER PLANTS CAN'T GROW.
As her barefoot girl and her dog explore her world, she finds four dandelions and can't resist blowing their parachute seeds, sending them wind-borne into the world. As she goes through late-summer days, she and her dog help spread the seeds of the weeds they pass through, one sticking in the sole of her sneaker, several burrs clinging to her dog's fur and her clothes, to fall perhaps on a fertile spot, sleep under the snow, and sprout next spring.
Weeds fight for their rights, with hooks and thorns, with hard shells, with bitter or sticky sap that defeat their enemies and co-opt their allies into distributors. They hide inside sweet fruit and let the birds do the rest of the work, sowing and fertilizing them at the same time.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Jenson-Elliott reminds her readers that in their way, weeds are wonders, softening bare fields, sweetening sour soil, and embellishing rocky hills with greenery and sometimes glorious flowers...
SENDING UP FLARES OF RIOTOUS RED,
EXHALING BREATH AS SWEET AS SLEEP,
UMBRELLAS OF FINEST WHITE LACE.
WEEDS FIND A WAY TO STAY.
Part nature study, part a hymn to the resolute drive to thrive in nature, Cindy Jenson-Elliot's Weeds Find a Way (Beach Lane Books, 2014), illustrated in evocative expressionistic mixed-media paintings by Carolyn Fisher, will increase the child's appreciation of the ubiquitous, plucky weed in whatever form it takes to survive, and in so doing, suggests, as did Tennyson's "all in all," that weeds represent the steadfast will to live found throughout nature, even among us humans.
The author adds an appendix, "Meet the Weed," which provides thumbnail color drawings and factual entries detailing the scientific name, habitat, form, and physiology of common weeds, which makes this book useful for classroom field studies and projects as well as simple backyard exploration. School Library Journal gives this one its hearty thumbs-up: "Poetic imagery describes how they are "shot out of tight, dry pods like confetti from a popped balloon" and "baking in shimmering summer heat on a white-hot sidewalk without a whisper of wind"), and the bold colors of the mixed media/digital collage illustrations do an admirable job of making the ordinary become stunning..... Expect to have readers rooting and exploring for the ubiquitous plants."