Growing Season

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El and Jo are the shortest kids in class, and they're inseparable. But what happens when Jo starts to grow? This sweet picture book explores the joys and challenges of friendship and growing up. "A sweet story with emotional depth." --Kirkus

El and Jo are the smallest students in their class--and best friends, too, like peas in a pod. Even their names are short. But in springtime, something BIG happens: Jo starts growing like a weed, while El feels smaller every day. On the last day of school, their teacher asked every child to pick a plant to care for over the summer. All the other kids reach over El to grab their plant, and she has to take the very last one: a tiny, flowerless aster. At first, she's disappointed. But as summer progresses, the aster begins to bloom--and so does El

Product Details

Sterling Children's Books
Publish Date
April 02, 2019
8.7 X 0.5 X 10.9 inches | 1.0 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Maryann Cocca-Leffler is the award-winning author and illustrator of more than 60 children's books, including What I Love About Christmas (Sterling); Let It Snow, Let It Fall, Let It Rain, and Let It Shine (Scholastic), a series with combined sales of more than two million copies; and A Vacation for Pooch, which was a Best Children's Books selection from Bank Street College of Education in 2014. Maryann's book Janine was inspired by her daughter, and together they developed a corresponding website,, with a mission to help change public perception of children with disabilities. She lives in Amherst, NH. Visit her at


"Cocca-Leffler draws an easy metaphor between growing children and growing potted plants in this relatable story. El and Jo are the smallest students in their class, and they do everything together ("Even their names were short"). One spring, though, Jo starts to grow, just like the plants that the students will care for at home over the summer; neither El nor her plant, though, grow any taller. While Jo is away all summer, the girls exchange letters and El plants both of the flowers in the garden. Finally, Jo arrives home to find that both of the plants have bloomed--and she and El are the same height. Cocca-Leffler proffers a reassuring message to readers: no two growing up experiences are alike, and one develops at one's own pace. A note on plant life cycles concludes." --Publishers Weekly

"Best friends and their flowers grow on different timelines, but patience cures all fears of being left behind. The commonalities that El and Jo share seem to make it only natural that they are best friends--their short names, their small size, their small desks. But after Jo experiences a growth spurt in the spring, El is the only tiny person in class, and she feels smaller every day. At the end of the school year, each student picks a plant to take home and care for over the summer. Everyone reaches over El, who gets the last pot. Jo sees her friend's small, flowerless aster, and she offers her zinnias; she is going to her grandma's for the summer anyway. El plants the two side by side and waters them all summer, as she and Jo exchange letters. When Jo returns, the friends find, to their delight, that the aster isn't the only small thing that has grown. The illustrations use gouache, colored pencil, and collage with delightful detail, most scenes on ample white space, with a few busy spreads that reflect El's feelings. El, with tightly curled brown hair and tan skin, appears racially ambiguous, and Jo appears Asian. Their diverse classroom includes black, brown, and Asian children and a girl who uses a wheelchair. An endnote on plant life cycles differentiates annuals from perennials and biennials. A sweet story with emotional depth." --Kirkus

"El and Jo, classmates and best friends, are both petite, which means that they can share their classroom's reading chair and claim the same tiny desks. Their teacher, who helps students nurture potted plants, notes that the girls are like two peas in a pod--that is, until the day Jo begins to grow 'like a weed, ' while El remains small. Feeling left behind, El relates to a small, flowerless aster plant, which she takes home for summer break. As El tends to the plant, she corresponds with Jo, who is away on vacation. Of course, by the time Jo returns, not only is El's aster flowering, but she has sprouted, too, returning the friends to the same height once more. This gentle picture book from the prolific Cocca-Leffler weaves in basic gardening info while reassuring readers about growth and friendship. A colorful spring palette brings the cheer, depicting a bright, multicultural classroom as well as a plethora of beautiful blooms in this bright take on early childhood concerns." --Booklist