Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

I loved Emily Hughes' art in Wild but I felt that the writing didn't live up to the art. This seems to be a little bit of a problem for Flying Eye Books, which certainly has amazing art but sometimes the text falls short. However, when I got a galley of The Little Gardener I was delighted to find that Ms. Hughes seems to have blossomed as a writer, as well as an illustrator.

The story begins with a rather sad garden. "This was the garden. It didn't look like much." However, the tiny gardener who lives there loves it and does all he possibly can to tend to its needs. Despite his best efforts, only one thing really grows in the garden; a beautiful flower. Eventually, even the inspiration of the flower fails to keep up the spirits and energy of the little gardener and he goes to sleep, exhausted. As he sleeps through the seasons, some strangers are inspired by the beautiful flower and a wonderful thing happens...

The text is simple and this makes it a good fit for the uplifting, hopeful story. It doesn't detract from the real focus, the artwork, but it adds an extra dimension to the story and provokes discussion about the story and pictures.

The art is lovely. The endpapers are a cheery yellow with a dancing line of plants and flowers. The use of perspective, showing the tiny gardener against the wasteland of his garden, gives the reader a perfect feeling of what a daunting task he has taken on. Everything in the garden droops and curves in muddy hues of green and brown, until you see the one perfect flower, a glowing, multi-petaled creation with a crown of golden stamens. As the mysterious someone's dark brown hands begin to tend the garden, the background lightens and more flowers pop up until the last spreads show a lively landscape of color and light.

Verdict: This simple but heartfelt story with its gorgeous illustrations would be the perfect addition to a storytime about gardening, helping others, or resiliency. I can't wait to include it in my own gardening storytimes and it should definitely be on the shelves of every public library, whether urban or rural.

ISBN: 9781909263437; Published August 2015 by Flying Eye Books; Galley provided by publisher for review; Purchased for the library

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