Seed Magic by Jane Buchanan, illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb
Rose and her brothers make fun of the old man who feeds the pigeons all day long from his wheelchair. When Rose asks him why he likes pigeons so much, he tells her how beautiful they are. But Rose can’t see it at all; she thinks that gardens are much more lovely than birds. So Birdman gives her some seeds to put outside her window and grow a garden on her windowsill. Rose knows that it won’t work, since there’s no dirt for them to grow in, but Birdman is insistent that they will grow a garden on her bare windowsill. Her brothers make fun of her for even trying, but Rose starts to dream of the incredible flowers that could sprout there. Then one day, something magical does happen, much to her surprise and delight.
Buchanan’s writing is poetic. It has a strong rhythmic quality that beats to the heart of the urban setting perfectly. She plays with imagery, describing the sunflower seeds as “black as tar, slick as oil” as Birdman share them with Rose. This is a book that speaks to the power of making connections, rather than dismissing those around us. It is also about beauty and seeing it in the most unlikely places.
The illustrations have a wonderful texture and thickness to them, the paint layered and deep. Riley-Webb uses plenty of color to depict the urban park: greens, blues, and rich browns. There is movement to her illustrations from the people, the birds and the gardens. It is a fresh way to show a city, rather than the cold of concrete.
This book celebrates nature in an urban setting and the sharing of beauty. Thanks to the rhythm of its writing, it’s a great read-aloud as well. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.