The Curious Garden. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
30-Second Plot Summary: In an industrial city with no gardens or wildlife, a boy named Liam, the only person who loves to be outside, discovers some plants in need of tending.
What is it about gardens right now? Every fifth book I see involves a garden. It could be me, it could be environmental concerns. But I'm starting to go a little garden crazy. Bring on the jungles already! I need me a garden break.
Ranting over, I promise. But having said that, what a cute book, guys. The use of color is wonderful. From the start the reader can see the dreariness of Liam's town (and can potentially compare it to their own town). The reader understands that any use of color (particularly red) is striking in contrast to the grays of the town. And then they can see the colorful transformation once the garden begins to grow and spread:
I also like that Liam struggles to learn to garden (as any newbie would). He has "pruning problems" and nearly drowns flowers. But the book shows his perseverance and the plants' "patience."
And as you can perhaps see by that last sentence, the garden in anthropomorphized. It lives, it wants to grow and explore. While in some books this technique might make me cringe. I rather like Brown's use of personification in The Curious Garden. It reinforces the fact that plants are living, without assigning them too many human emotions.
The Curious Garden is just that. Curious. Without being preachy about environmental or urban sprawl issues, Brown presents a slightly mysterious and fun way of improving a community and shows the difference one person can make.
Aside from reinforcing the patience that is necessary to learn to garden from day to day, The Curious Garden shares that gardeners must also be patient throughout the winter and shows how to use that time to advantage.
A teacher could use this book to trigger a gardening or neighborhood beautification project. Students could discuss where their nearest garden or park is and make plans to visit it.
Quotes of Note:
"There once was a city without gardens or trees or greenery of any kind. Most people spent their time indoors. As you can imagine, it was a very dreary place."
"However, there was one boy who loved being outside. Even on drizzly days, while everyone else stayed inside, you could always find Liam happily splashing through his neighborhood."
"The first thing he saw was a lonely patch of color. Wildflowers and plants were the last things he had expected to find up there. But when he took a closer look, it became clear that the plants were dying. They needed a gardner."
"With miles of open railway ahead of it, the garden was growing restless. It wanted to explore."
Tasty Rating: !!!!