David Small and Sarah Stewart are a phenomenal husband-wife team. [You can learn more about them here, as well as see them on video.] Their collaborative picture books are treasures. The Gardener was my first introduction to the pair years ago, and I instantly fell in love. Who wouldn’t?
The Gardener has a theme similar to Miss Rumphius, another favorite, and they would be well-paired in a Book Detectives setting along with any flower or gardening activity that can be shared with others. Spread beauty and joy!
Written in the form of letters by Lydia Grace to loved ones, The Gardener shares life from the perspective of a cheerful young country girl living in the city with her solemn uncle.
In many children’s books, the protagonist achieves the thing that he needs or wants. The Gardener causes us to consider whether Lydia Grace failed her mission.
Crime Scene [Setting]
(Country, train station)
The City (USA)
Bakery—undecorated, a little dreary, but the sun shines on it
Roof of the bakery—empty, ugly space
August 27, 1935-July 11, 1936 (almost a whole year, all four seasons)
During The Great Depression
Lydia Grace Finch—girl, cheerful, optimistic, kind, gardener, hard worker, thoughtful, smart, patient
Uncle Jim—man with a big nose and black mustache, somber, quiet, unsmiling, doesn’t seem to have a sense of humor, kind
Ed and Emma Beech—Uncle Jim’s friends, work at bakery, kind, helpful, supportive
(Grandma—Lydia Grace’s namesake and fellow gardener)