Review: The Little Gardner by Emily Hughes

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

The gardener loves his garden and he works hard in it, but he’s not that good at gardening. He feels often that he is too small for the job. He does manage to grow one tall red flower that gives him energy and hope. After working so hard, he knows that if something doesn’t change he will soon be out of food, out of a home, and no longer able to live in the garden he loves so much. He falls asleep, exhausted after making a wish that something will happen. Someone notices his flower in the garden and start to work. As the gardener sleeps, the people work on the garden, transforming it into flowers rather than weeds. The little gardener’s flower inspired them to make a change and in turn their work allowed him to live on as the gardener in the place he adores.

Told very simply, this picture book from the author of Wild is about a truly tiny gardener who is smaller than the weeds that he is battling. The writing is simple with a wonderful tone, very understated with the illustrations bringing the real truth to the reader. At the same time, there is a sense of wonder throughout the text that speaks to the power of wishes, the joy of being in just the right place for yourself, and the pleasure of a simple life.

Hughes’ illustrations are phenomenal. She captures the wildness of the weeds, the beauty of a single red flower rising above them, and then the bounty of a newly planted garden. She also captures the size of the little gardener, showing him to be almost fairy-like in his size, dwarfed and protected by the plants around him. That size allows Hughes to focus closely on the plants, creating a jungle out of the garden.

Beautifully illustrated and with a lovely look at a little life well lived, this picture book would be a great addition to gardening story times. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Flying Eye Books.

Review: Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott

weeds find a way

Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Carolyn Fisher

Weeds are the most tenacious of plants, growing where nothing else can survive.  This informational picture book looks at how these weeds are able to live in such harsh conditions.  It also explores the various ways that weeds reproduce from fluffy seeds carried on the wind to being pokey and sticky and carried along on clothes and fur.  Weeds can survive scorching heat and icy cold.  They fight back by having stems that break before their roots are pulled out, sour sap or thorns.  But in the end, this book is about survival and the beauty and wonder of weeds.  It’s a celebration of these unwanted plants.

The author has written this book in prose, but uses poetic devices like analogies and similes to show how weeds thrive.   Her language choices are very nice such as her depiction of milkweed: “…shot out of tight, dry pods like confetti from a popped balloon.”  Throughout the book there are descriptions like this and they bring the entire book a certain shine.

Fisher’s art is standout in this book.  Her illustrations are a dynamic mix of painting styles.  There are layers throughout her work, some smooth and detailed, others large and textured for the backgrounds, and almost lacy weedy touches.  They are strikingly lovely especially if you look at them closely, rather like the weeds they depict.

A choice addition to gardening story times, this will make a good summer or spring pick to share.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.