Though snowflakes are still sporadically gracing our windshields as I look down at my feet I see them; little signs of a big change in the season. Tiny succulents are poking through my mulch as a precursor of the next big thing-Spring! Looking up the squirrels are more playful as they carefully scamper after one another along telephone wires from house to house. I think of the garden. I think of the potential of the upcoming season, of the work, the blood and the sweat and the joy. So too does the tiny little character in Emily Hughes children’s book, The Little Gardener.
Hawaiian illustrator and author of Wild has crafted another winning children’s book in The Little Gardener. A boy barely bigger than an earthworm revels in his place in the garden which, granted, in the beginning doesn’t look like very much. The boy undeterred by the scrappy landscape carefully and gracefully tends to the earth for “It was his home. It was his supper. It was his joy”. Despite his best efforts the garden was not doing well because he was well, just too small. There is one thing that blossomed- a beautifully illustrated zinnia. “It was alive and wonderful. It gave the gardener hope and it made him work even harder”. He worked all day and night but still the garden perished. He would have no home, no supper, and no joy.
One night, he makes a wish and though no one hears his little voice, someone sees his flower and that flower gave someone (much bigger) hope to work. Exhausted from his work, the little gardener sleeps a whole week and he wakes to find the garden in all its glory and though the boy doesn’t look like much, he means everything to his garden.
The colored pencil illustrations in this story are beautiful. The flora and fauna look like they hail from a children’s illustrated encyclopedia. The boy’s friend, a pink earthworm is highly expressive and great side-kick. The author captures their relationship in a very heart-warming fashion. The book, almost parable like in its message reminded me of an almost anti- Giving Tree. Whereas the tree gave and gave, here we see more of a symbiosis and Hughes hints that while we may try our best, sometimes Mother Nature is unrelenting and defies our hopes and dreams anyway. That does not mean we should give up, for at least in this tale, there is help at hand.
This is a great read for young elementary-aged readers and for the young at heart who know about the perils of pouring your heart into something that may or may not ultimately reward you. Sometimes the joy can also be in the process.
Find this book and Wild in our Children’s collection.