Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate (Review)
Updated: Nov 21
Interest Level: Grades 2 - 5
Author: Sara Levine
Illustrator: Masha D'yans
Publisher: 2019, Millbrook Press
Reading Level: Grade 2, Guided Reading Level Q, Lexile 570L
Retail: 19.99, hardcover
Summary: An amusing talking cactus explains to children how flower colors attract different kinds of pollinators.
This unusual book uses humor and a very direct conversational tone to teach an interesting lesson about flowers and animals. The narrator is a somewhat grumpy prickly pear cactus with a face and cactus pad hands. He or she (we can't tell) wants to correct some misconceptions about plants and offers a bit of wry commentary along the way.
While the scientific concepts introduced in this book are somewhat oversimplified, author Sara Levine (an educator and veterinarian) invites children to look at flowers in a new way. The idea that plants "communicate" with pollinators through color, shape and scent may not be new to all readers, but the specifics are quite interesting. For instance, the reader learns that white flowers are more visible at night and therefore attract nighttime animals like bats and moths. Red flowers often have less of a perfume because the birds that pollinate them have a poor sense of smell. Brown flowers trick flies into helping them out but don't give anything back in return.
The tone of the text is very child friendly and there is no scientific jargon (except in the end notes spread showing the parts of a flower). The narration flows easily with colloquialisms, exclamations, and parenthetical asides like "(I know--so gross!)." This puts it squarely into tween territory without being overdone.
What really brings this book together are the beautiful and highly detailed watercolor illustrations. The flowers and animals are brightly rendered, and they really pop off the pages. Artist Masha D'yans has taken a few liberties with the level of realism (especially in the rendering of animals), but the end result works. I only wish some of the flowers species were labeled. This is a wonderful read aloud for younger children, and it is leveled for independent readers. Science lite.