Julia Denos is my new most favorite illustrator. When I laid eyes on this exquisite book, I immediately rearranged my order lists so I could buy it for us. It's soooooo beautiful.
A little girl loves everything about Grandma, their games, the little things she says, and especially Grandma's garden. But Grandma gets older and finally she has to go the hospital. She doesn't smell like Grandma and she has forgotten her daughter and granddaughter. But she remembers to water her plants. And then she dies. Family and friends remember the special things about Grandma and tell stories - but no one seems to remember Grandma's plants, except her granddaughter. After everyone has left, she asks her mother if she can keep Grandma's gloves - and grow a garden of their own.
There are so many lovely things about this book, even though I cry every time I read it. I love the portrayal of Grandma and her special relationship with the little girl. I love how Castellucci shows it's the little, everyday things people remember and appreciate. I love the warmth between the three generations, Grandma, Mama, and the little girl. I love the natural, simple way death is handled in the story.
Mostly, I love Denos' illustrations. Grandma's garden blooms with life and color. Her characters laugh and enjoy life, suffer pain and loss, and heal, all vividly expressed through her artwork. Plants bloom in every landscape, mixed with shadows that express both sorrow and hope. And it's all so....beautiful. Not pretty-pretty, like many of the princess/pink stories you see today are, but truly beautiful artwork with depth and vision that's still accessible to children who like a little lovely in their lives.
Verdict: A must-have. You need this one for every parent or child who has lost a beloved grandparent. You need this one to celebrate the beauty of gardens and the warmth of families. You need this one to add a little lovely to your life.
ISBN: 978-0763631680; Published August 2010 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library