As generations of parents can attest, nothing is more irresistible to young children than freshly turned dirt the richer, darker, wetter, the better. There's just something about cool brown earth on a hot summer day that compels little fingers and toes to wiggle beneath and burrow into its mysterious depths. A wonderful way to allow children to engage in this natural tendency, while satisfying their curiosity about how things grow, is gardening. Whether tilling a backyard plot or planting seeds in a small container, gardening is a hands-on way to learn while having fun.

In the interactive picture book Max Loves Sunflowers, Ken Wilson-Max outlines the fundamental steps of planting flowers. The brief text is accompanied by vibrant illustrations, while easy-to-operate tabs and flaps encourage participation by junior gardeners. A peek under the earth reveals a planted seed, the spray from a watering can slides back and forth, and the gradually sprouting sunflower shoot can be extended as it grows. The center of the book unfolds into a giant blossom, complete with buzzing bee a delightful reward for Max's hard work. His joy is contagious as the story ends with the mature sunflowers dancing in the breeze and Max dancing along.

Narrated by a bright purple pig and told in simple, direct language, Max Loves Sunflowers is an ideal introduction to gardening for toddlers and preschoolers.

Lynn Hoffman is a freelance writer living in Dubuque, Iowa.

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