the promise + seed bombs

promise_thumbThe Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin (2013).

This one will wow you. At least it wowed me.

I consider it an urban fable. It takes a city we may know and exaggerates it, makes it grittier and citier and more desolate.


That setting, it makes people “as mean and hard and ugly as their city, and I was mean and hard and ugly too.”  This book is told in the first person, a narrator who is honest and flawed and who changes.



The title comes from a promise the narrator makes to an old woman she’s robbing, that she’ll plant what’s in the bag she’s stealing. And she does. The bag is full of acorns. She plants them and that is just the beginning.



She plants them everywhere.


“I pushed aside the mean and hard and ugly,

and I planted, planted, planted.”

Eventually, there are trees. Birds. The city changes. The people change. Everything changes.


“Trees and flowers, fruits and vegetables, in parks and gardens,

on balconies and rooftops.”

I’m a big fan of Laura Carlin‘s art. (See The Iron Giant or her other wonderful illustration work.)

And here, the artwork is magnificent, each spread totally new from the next. Each, an invention, a revelation. At first, muddy. Sad. Beautiful.



Tiny figures, large ones. Gray, gray, gray. Windows of buildings like thumbprints.



And then, color! Colored pencil drawings that are slightly raw and totally beautiful. Plants and birds and people intertwined.

Here’s Carlin talking about The Promise.


The narrator continues her work planting in cities far and wide. And then, when she confronts someone mean and hard like she was because of their setting, trying to steal her bag, she implores a promise.  Just like hers.


Thanks to Walker Books for images!




This book immediately made me think of seed bombs, which are perfect for Earth Day and Month and Spring! And guys, seed bombs are much prettier than when they first came on the scene! Really, really pretty. But, the result is even better: plants growing in hard, vacant spaces that need some life and beauty and green things. Just like in The Promise.


These are ones I really liked on etsy.


Seed bombs by Paper Sprouts.



Pastel heart-shaped ones from Wild Bloomers.



Wildflower variety by Renaissance Botanical. They look like speckled eggs!



There are even seed bombs that look like a box of chocolates from Garden bonbons.



Rainbow too! By Love By Bean.



Black ones filled with herb seeds from Plantables and Paper.



And this is what they look like when they start to sprout! Via Pulp Art.

There are beneficial bug-attracting seed bombs. The best bombs for each region of the U.S. The ones honey bees love.

But, hey, you could also make your own no-nonsense seed bombs!


tiny-creatues-picture-bookYou may want to check out another Nicola Davies book I’ve featured: TINY CREATURES: THE WORLD OF MICROBES.






15 Responses to the promise + seed bombs

  1. mariagianferrari says:

    I haven’t yet read this one, Danielle–the art work is stunning. I pretty much LOVE everything else by Nicola Davies. Her Bat Loves the Night remains one of my very favorite books. Her nonfiction is lyrical and beautiful!

    • I don’t know BAT LOVES THE NIGHT, so I’m very glad you’ve pointed it out! This one is fiction, but definitely lyrical and beautiful! It’s a truly unusual book. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting!

  2. mariagianferrari says:

    If you love lyrical, narrative, nature nonfiction, then she’s one of the best. I also love her Ice Bear and Big Blue Whale. And Surprising Sharks is very fun too. I also love April Pulley Sayre’s nonfiction. 🙂

  3. So, so pretty this post!
    I have not yet read this book, but it makes me think of Miss Rumphius gone city gritty.
    Will also look for the BAT book Maria recommends. 🙂

  4. B says:

    Thank you so much for featuring an image of my seed bombs, and wonderful post too btw. Love the art work.
    Renaissance Botanical

  5. This book reminds me of The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, the way the lesson is passed on. But the grittiness is fairly unique, I think. I like it! I also find these seed bombs intriguing. Maybe we’ll have the 4th and 5th graders make them at Farm School in a couple of weeks.

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  7. hmmmmm says:

    THE PROMISE looks beautiful — like a close cousin of Helen Ward & Wayne Anderson’s THE TIN FOREST and Tomithy Basil Ering’s THE STORY OF FROG BELLY RAT BONE. (Also, I love your new adjective, “citier” — which works so perfectly with grittier!)

  8. mariagianferrari says:

    I’m so disappointed that our library does not have this book! 🙁 Anytime you need a nf recommendation, just holler Danielle. I love NF and read a ton of it, from bio pbs, history and lots of science and nature-oriented stuff.

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