Sharon Lovejoy is the children’s
gardening guru we all know and love from her many books, including Sunflower Houses and Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots. Join
me in learning more about her latest book, Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars: Grandma's Bag of Tricks which is aimed at grandmas, but is perfectly
wonderful for parents as well.
Readers will have a chance to win a signed and inscribed copy of Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars at the end of this interview.***
I love the warmth and caring that shines
throughout, love all the ideas, love your illustrations and the photos of your
grandchildren. Every grandmother (and mother) should read this! Did you say
that you had to redo all of the illustrations? Incredible! What a job that
must have been!
SHARON: Well, it ended up
that the custodian [at the publishers] threw away 238 of them. The 13 pound box of originals went
to the crusher and ended up in the dump. I stayed in bed and mourned them for a
few days and then got up and thought, “If I don’t start over, I’ll never finish
this book.” So it was up to ME to get going, and I finally did.
I understand that your own grandmothers played an important role in your
life as a child. What do you think they would say about your new book?
SHARON: I think they would
be very happy to see many of their traditions and projects carried on with
their great, great grandchildren. Simple things that are shared and carried on
like a never ending chain.
JEAN: What made you write a book focused on
grandparents and grandchildren?
SHARON: I didn’t have much
interaction with my parents and felt that I could better write for
grandparents and grandchildren. When I raised my son Noah (I was a single mom
for a long time), I was so busy working and scrabbling along I didn’t get to do
lots of these things with him. But we did garden, have nature experiences, bake
bread and cookies and other things, and we did art projects, but not to the
extent of what I do with my grandchildren now.
What would you say is the best thing a grandma can do to connect with her
SHARON: JUST BE WITH THEM!
Go on walks, explore the five senses, cook up some simple recipes, LOVE their
art creations and give them a place of honor. Just do simple things and they
are memorable to children.
You should hear my grandchildren
reminiscing about our traditions. It shows me that they’re firmly planted in
their minds and in their souls. It reinforces the value of time spent together.
We make a point of taking them on
small trips to art galleries and festivals and asking them what they like, why
they like it, and if they would do something similar. We value their answers,
and they love to be questioned.
I just love the magic and sense of
wonder that comes through in your books! How is it that you still have access
to that? And why do you think it’s important for children to experience magic
SHARON: Childhood is the
time to root wonder firmly. If it hadn’t been for my Grandmother Lovejoy, well,
I can’t imagine where I would be today.
I love this quote by D. H. Lawrence:
“There is a sixth sense, the natural
religious sense, the sense of wonder.”
I believe that if you have and
nurture a sense of wonder, every day will be a magical adventure filled with
simple things that become meaningful and precious.
We all need sweet simplicity. We all
need to be in touch with what is important: family, friends, beliefs, nature,
love of all sorts, but NOT what we can purchase. That is not the important
thing in life.
Cottages & Shooting Stars is full of wonderful activities, from nature
memory cards to potato faces. I’ve already marked so many that I want to do
with Maia! What are your favorite activities in the book?
SHARON: Oh my gosh Jean, that is a tough question because I
love so many of them.
I love all the nature experiences
ESPECIALLY the Andy Goldsworthy outdoor ephemeral art projects. When I was an
artist-in-residence at Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek, Michigan, we provided
sticks, stones, cones, leaves, pieces of plants, etc., and a broad swath of
ground for children’s masterpieces, and believe me, they did create
The children became totally absorbed
by their creations, and they turned out beautifully.
I also love learning to really
listen to the “Bird Words” with children. I just read a book that explained
that there are “sonic niches” and “soundscapes” in nature. Naturalist Bernie
Krause, who records animal sounds, said that, “Birds, mammals, and amphibians
in healthy habitats occupy sonic niches that allow each creature to express its
voice without competition from others.”
I think it would be great to go
outdoors with a child both day and night and record the sounds around
I loved making the leaf stained
glass windows. They are really exquisite and children adore them. Also, if you
noticed the leaf boy and girl on page 193, that was a fun project and so easy
to do with the proper small scissors. I tried doing the people with child-safe
scissors, but they’re not exact enough. You need real adult ones for the cutting.
Another project I loved was doing
“Learning from Leftovers” or gardens from garbage. What an eye-opener to
children to see how much life is contained in a piece of leftover vegetable, or
some shriveled beans from the cupboard. Especially wonderful was the project of
growing peanuts in moist white yarn.
Sometimes it’s hard for us mamas to
distance ourselves from the day-to-day routine. Grandmas have a little more
distance and leeway, as well as years of experience under the belt. If you
could share just one or two tips with us parents in the trenches, what would
SHARON: Oh how well I
remember being a parent in the trenches. I think I would encourage you to think
twice before saying too many NOs. Also, step back and watch the play-work your
child does and then praise, praise, praise. Even the most reluctant child
blossoms with praise.
Take time for yourself and your
child and step outside, both day and night, and revel in the glories around
you. Just a five minute break together outdoors can help restore your cabin
fever and encroaching insanity.
But most of all, enjoy every second.
My Noah is a grown up now, and I think back fondly on his “cities” on our
living room rug, the cities I tripped over and stepped on, and griped about. I
wish I could re live those days, and in some ways, I guess I do now with my
grandchildren. I’m much easier going now and feel much more childlike myself.
And it feels GOOD!
JEAN: Thank you, Sharon! What a wonderful gift you are giving families around the world through your books and your work!
Readers, friends — Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars is an excellent book that I urge
you to seek out. Please spread the word and pass on this interview to as many
grandmas as you can! Mamas, too. And remember than you can follow Sharon on her blog as well.
Readers who leave a comment by Thursday,
February 18th at 8am EST will be entered into a random drawing for a signed copy of Toad Cottages & Shooting
Stars with a personal inscription of your choice.