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Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars: Grandma's Bag of Tricks Paperback – February 4, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Sharon Lovejoy calls this treasure trove of crafts, recipes and activities “a natural outgrowth of the way I have always lived and interacted with children.” Many of the ideas and projects originated from her journal notes and sketches. Who could resist a “Faeries’ Tea Party” where Heart- and Star-Shaped Faerie Sandwiches and Button Pie appear on the menu? Or building the title cottage for a toad and collecting leaves and flowers for a 3-D collage? More than 130 activities encourage an exploration of both the natural world and a child’s imagination. Clear instructions, illustration and abundant photos make each project inviting, and a list of “ingredients” makes them manageable. “The book is about unplugging from electronics and plugging into adventures, projects, discoveries and the simplest pleasures of childhood,” says Lovejoy, “watching shooting stars, following animal tracks, creating art, and keeping family history and traditions alive.” (Ages 6-10, adult)
-Kirkus Reviews
(Book Page magazine)

“Build a worm hotel, a pizza box solar oven, or a firefly lantern by following the whimsical simple instructions in this terrific source of outdoor activity ideas.”

Scholastic Parents & Child Magazine

“When Sharon Lovejoy says her gardening books are for children ofallages, she means all ages, including grandparents. Her magical activities, projects and ideas prove it is never too late to have a happy childhood.’

Book Page magazine

“What better way to get kids interested in the garden and nature.”

Los Angeles Daily News


From the Back Cover

Make leaf rubbings, blow jumbo bubbles, bake Moon Pizzas and Granny-ola in a handmade solar oven, grow a snack pot of radishes and carrots, create a firefly lantern, and on a rainy day make rainsticks.

Illustrated with evocative photographs and the author’s watercolors, this magical book shows how to do 130 activities that connect grandmothers and grandchildren through nature―in the kitchen, the garden, and the art room.

Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars is more than an activity book; it’s an interactivity book. It’s about being curious, about being adventurous, about noticing and really seeing things, about instilling a sense of wonder. Sprinkled throughout are Mrs. Lovejoy’s inventive grandparenting ideas that help make every visit a memorable one, filled with simple joys and discoveries that will have grandchildren coming back again and again.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company; Original edition (February 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761150439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761150435
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

For the first seven years of her life, Sharon Lovejoy was introduced to the wonders of nature by her Quaker grandmother Abigal Lovejoy, a botanist and an educator. As an adult, Sharon's passion for the natural world guided her to become an award winning nature, gardening, and children's book author and watercolor illustrator.

As a graduate with Distinction in the Field of Art from San Diego State University, Sharon successfully combined her training in art with her love of botany and natural science. She worked as a docent naturalist for the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History and for the Smithsonian Institution in the lagoons of Baja, California.

In 1982, she founded Heart's Ease Herb Shop & Gardens in Cambria, California, where she shared her love and knowledge of nature and ethnobotany with visitors for the next 15 years.

Sharon's home, business, and display gardens first captured national attention on the cover of the August 1990 issue of Country Living magazine. Since then, her home and garden creations have appeared in numerous books and magazines, and she has been a guest on countless radio and television shows from coast to coast, including NBC's Today, HGTV, and The Victory Garden on PBS.

In 1991, Interweave Press published her first book Sunflower Houses: Garden Discoveries for Children of All Ages,a recollection of the influence from her Grandmother Lovejoy and the inspiration that has introduced tens of thousands of children to the wonders of nature through gardening.

From 1993 to 2006, Sharon wrote and illustrated the award winning, regular feature column "Heart's Ease" in Country Living GARDENER magazine. She currently is the Southern California regional contributor for the popular Lowe's home improvement store "Garden Grow Along" blog and a frequent contributor to Farming magazine.

Sharon has been a consultant for the Reader's Digest Association and a children's garden design consultant at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in San Francisco, the  Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College in El Cajo, California, and for EDAW, one of the world's leading landscape architectural firms (now AECON), at the Red Butte Botanical Gardens in Salt Lake City and the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. In 1996, she was chosen to design the Children's Gardening Pavilion for the highly respected Cincinnati Flower and Garden Show. She currently serves on the National Children and Youth Garden Advisory Panel of the American Horticultural Society.

As a recognized gardening expert, Sharon has lectured throughout the United States at conferences, educational symposia, museums, botanic gardens, arboreta, public and private educational institutions, and for professional trade associations and gardening organizations.

Her professional affiliations include The Authors Guild, Inc., Garden Writers Association, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and American Horticultural Society. In 1995, Sharon served as President of the International Herb Association.

For her contributions to education, Sharon received the Key to the City of Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Gold Leaf Award from the Santa Clara Department of Education at the Kindergarten Forum in Saratoga, California. Her writings have been reprinted in educational and testing publications in English and Spanish.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you're a grandma or a mom (or even a nature-loving, kid-daffy grandpa or dad), you're going to be delighted by Sharon Lovejoy's latest book, Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars. It is the ultimate Granny Handbook, designed especially for those of us who are lucky enough to have at least one small child to introduce to life in the kitchen, the backyard, and the garden.

Sharon Lovejoy has always helped us to work with our kids in the garden, from her delightful Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots to Sunflower Houses; Hollyhock Days; and A Blessing of Toads.

But Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars is special, because it is designed as a "manual" for grandmas, and Lovejoy has crammed it full of playful activities that even grannies without green thumbs can manage and kids will absolutely love. To whet your appetite, here is a short sampling from the six chapters: Faerie Mailboxes, Firefly Lanterns, No-Bake Nests, Be a Pumpkin Parent, Potato Volcanoes, and Worm Hotel.

Want more? How about these chapter titles? Preparing Camp Granny (lots of fine ideas, even if you're a long-distance granny). Or The Neighborhood Naturalist, Kids in the Kitchen, the Kitchen Garbage Garden (starts with an activity called "Learning from Leftovers"), Kids in the Garden, and Rainy Day Activities. Each chapter offers recipes (Moon Pizzas, anybody?), games, and activities--each one a learning opportunity for both granny and grandkid. And best of all, the book overflows with color photographs and Lovejoy's delightful drawings of bugs, plants, food toys, and faeries. Every page is a treasure.
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Length: 3:40 Mins
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Sharon Lovejoy is my ideal grandmother. She spends time browsing craft stores and home centers for child-friendly materials. She readies her house for her grandchildren's visits by setting up "camp granny" - stocking rooms with dress-up clothes, children's books, and child-friendly activities. She maintains an active and creative line of communication with long-distance grandkids. And she relishes nature walks and garden experiments with little ones. If only more grandparents were like her...

My own mother isn't and if yours is more couch-potato than amateur naturalist then this book won't change that. I'm giving my mom this book because I found it second-hand, asked her if she wanted it, and she replied casually "yes" without questioning what exactly what it was. I'm pretty sure that after I give it to her and she has had time to look it over in the privacy of her own home (if she even gets that far) she'll say "well, I'm not doing any of these activities because they're too much work" and proceed to use the TV as a babysitter if I leave my children in her care.

Who should buy this book: Grandmothers or grandfathers (these activities really aren't gender-specific) looking for ways to enjoy time with their grandkids over the age of 5 (a 2-year-old who has to be watched like a hawk so she won't slice her hand open with pinking shears is a totally different animal than a 7-year-old who knows not to eat toadstools) in the garden and in the kitchen. It also helps if the grandparent in question is in good health, is free of mobility issues, and has a sizable garden (though many of the plant activities can be done indoors).

Who should NOT buy this book: People hoping to transform lazy, unimaginative, or infirm grandparents into elderly Mary Poppins.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought a first copy of this book for myself, and my children's active grandmother fell in love! She found so many sweet and simple ideas that kept my 3-year-old son busy outdoors with her for her entire visit. The book is wonderfully written, with beautiful photos, highly appealing layout, so fun to browse through. It also helped me save the tomatoes I'd overly-ambitiously (with new baby at home, that is) started indoors :) Loving this publisher. Have just bought another copy for myself, and 2 more for gifts for friends.
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Format: Paperback
Sharon Lovejoy wrote Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars: Grandma's Bag of Tricks for grandparents with a variety of activities and treats to share with their grandchildren. But this is much more than an activity book; from the suggestions that Lovejoy makes, it is clear that she must have had a wonderful relationship with her own grandmothers and that she's established strong bonds with her own grandchildren.

Lovejoy suggests ways to make your home welcoming, to prepare places that will make young grandchildren feel comfortable and special at the same time. From making special areas and activity spots to compiling baskets of books and bags for outdoor exploration to all sorts of child friendly recipes, Lovejoy shares her secrets.

The book is separated into "activity sections":

* Preparing Camp Granny
* The Neighborhood Naturalist
* Kids in the Kitchen
* Kitchen Garbage Garden
* Kids in the Garden; and
* Rainy Day Activities

While many of the proposed activities are well suited for families in the suburbs (with access to the outdoors), they can be adapted for public parks, neighborhood gardens and nearby beaches. It's a book that grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and even parents can use to find ideas and for advice. The book itself is clearly a labor of love with gorgeous illustrations, carefully selected activities, and even engaging photos of Lovejoy's four grandchildren. I highly recommend Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars: Grandma's Bag of Tricks for the activities and advice. I'll certainly use the suggestions to make my niece feel at home when she visits next.

For children ages 9-12.
ISBN-10: 0761150439 - Paperback
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company; Original edition (February 4, 2010), 205 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
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