Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Timeless Picture Book

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrations by David Small.

This is a delightful, heartwarming book made all the more poignant by the hard economic times we are currently experiencing. The story takes place during the Depression. Lydia Grace is being sent to live with her Uncle Jim in the city because of financial hardships. Told in a series of letters by Lydia Grace (first to Uncle Jim, and then to her family back home) we watch as she leaves behind everything she knows and loves, and heads to the big, unknown city.

Lydia Grace is a gardener, and brings a suitcase of seeds with her. Uncle Jim is a baker, and a bit of a curmudgeon, at that. Throughout the book, Lydia Grace is determined to get her uncle to smile, as well as make the city bloom. What she does in the end is quite magical (and I’m not giving it away here).

The illustrations are simple, yet full of life. David Small does a wonderful job depicting the background and hustle bustle of a city during the 1930’s. However, it’s the expressions on his character’s faces that are priceless. Each character's personality shows up through his delightful drawings. Like Lydia Grace, we are rooting for Uncle Jim to smile, and it’s fun to watch his expressions evolve (ever so subtly) as the story unfolds.

There are a lot of gentle messages throughout the book, such as bringing beauty into the world and the importance of simple gestures. The Gardener is a gently paced book that kids will savor for many readings, and its tone makes it an ideal bedtime read. It would also make a great gift for anyone who loves gardening.

Some BookNosher Tidbits:
The Gardener was a Caldecott Honor book in 1998

Sarah Stewart and David Small are married to each other. The Gardener was their third collaboration.

BookNosher Activities

Kids may be inspired to develop their own green thumbs after reading The Gardener. The key is to keep it simple AND get fast results.Here’s a site to get some great indoor gardening ideas.

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