Jerdine Nolen
David Catrow, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007
book covers
books in alphabetical order


When you give a living thing love, you just never know where it will lead …

Mortimer Henryson has always had a special place in his heart for Plantzilla, his third grade's class plant. But when he offers to take Plantzilla for the summer, young Mortimer is in for more than he bargained for.

All Plantzilla needs is a little water, food., love, and lots of sunlight. Mortimer's kindness comes back to him—beyond his and his family's wildest imagining.

Open your heart to Jerdine Nolen's story of caring and friendship, brought to vivid life by David Catrow's hilarious illustrations, and you may decide to adopt a plant of your very own today.


Employing the same tenderness and fanciful sense of wonder that characterized her Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm and Raising Dragons, Nolen delivers another picture book with a far-out premise and plenty of heart. A series of letters and postcards tells the tale. Third-grader Mortimer Henryson has successfully petitioned his parents and his science teacher, Mr. Lester, to allow him to bring the class plant, Plantcilia (nicknamed "Plantzilla" by the students), home over summer vacation. But Mortimer's parents worry when Plantzilla starts developing an appetite for meat, growing wildly and moving on its own and just what has become of Mrs. Henryson's prize-winning Chihuahua? It seems the more care and attention that Mortimer pays his favorite bit of flora, the more human-like Plantzilla becomes. As the transformation continues, the sprawling, blooming plant becomes literally part of the family. The book's distinctive design allows each character his or her (or its) own hand-lettered or typewritten form of expression, a playful touch (although newly independent readers may have trouble with Mrs. Henryson's cursive). Catrow's (Cinderella Skeleton) exuberant vine of a plant part Venus's-flytrap, part aloe vera and part whimsy creeps and curls from spread to spread, like an exotic jungle creature, and all of the humans look eccentric, too. His renderings of Plantzilla's high jinks, such as forming a two-man hockey team to play against Mortimer, compound the nutty fun. (Publishers Weekly)

At the end of the school year, Mortimer takes a plant home from his third-grade classroom. Throughout the summer, Plantzilla continues to grow and Mortimer continues to love and nurture it. Strange things ensue. His quiet, boring, well-ordered household, complete with well-mannered cat and prize-winning Chihuahua, is totally disrupted: the plant starts to grow tentacles and to eat meat (the dog disappears) and perform all sorts of amazing feats. The boy's parents begin to worry, but the protagonist is delighted with his clever plant. The text is all in the form of letters-from Mortimer to his teacher describing the progress of his plant, from Mortimer's mother to Mr. Lester complaining about it, and from Mr. Lester to each of them. Catrow's watercolor-and-pencil illustrations spill across the pages, creating a marvelous sort of ubiquitous vine with tendrils curling all around, each one doing something different. The dog, cat, and several squirrels romp in its branches, and Mortimer dances and plays with his friend, who eventually becomes almost human and very benevolent. This humorous story may be shared with a group but will be best savored by individual readers who will have fun absorbing the wildly imaginative illustrations close up. (Judith Constantinides, formerly at East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA, School Library Journal)

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