PLOT SUMMARY: When Theo's grandfather moves to an apartment and is no longer able to have a garden, the two create an imaginary garden using paints and brushes.
The book is on the text-heavy side. While it could be readily used as a read aloud with a class of future world-famous artists, it also lends itself to being used one-on-one. That way, a student can focus on some of the details of painting techniques to complete their own masterpieces.
The illustration style is very interesting, using a collage of color ink and pen. The artist, Irene Luxbacher, used this technique to its fullest. The partial sketches done with pen are only used to represent the real world. When Theo imagines being in the garden, the illustrations are done completely in in colorful paints.
Since both painting and gardens are featured throughout the story, a teacher can take advantage of that and read this book aloud to students then focus on having students complete projects--either paintings of flowers or preparing a classroom garden. Also, The Imaginary Garden encourages its readers to narrate stories about paintings. A teacher can take advantage of this technique and encourage students to create narration about other works of art.
Focusing on painting, The Imaginary Garden shares how to mix colors to form other colors. The book also gives basic lessons on painting technique--particularly on how to draw flowers and birds.
If more interested on drawing attention to the gardening aspect of the story, a teacher could reinforce kinds of flowers. Poppa mentions crocuses, scilla, tulips, daffodils, Forget-me-nots, etc.
To go a completely different route, a teacher could take this book as a teaching moment to discuss how Theo (short for Theodora) can be a girl's name too!!!!!! And how just because a girl has a name that's unusual or is spelled differently doesn't mean you should assume that name belongs to a boy. Cause let me tell you, that'll complicate that girl's life more than a little and she might just grow up to be ornery and desperate to find a more "feminine" nickname that isn't Shelly. Because hearing the name "Shelly" makes her cringe. EVERY TIME! I'm just saying.
QUTOES OF NOTE:
"Theo loved Poppa's old house. She loved Poppa's old garden."
"Poppa's new apartment didn't have a garden.
"Are you going to put flowers out here on the balcony?" asked Theo one day.
"I think it's too windy for flowers," answered Poppa."
"I know!" said Theo. "We could have an imaginary garden."
Poppa's eyes lit up.
Theo and Poppa planned their imaginary garden before spring had even come."
"A few weeks later, Poppa prepared to leave on holiday. He asked Theo to take care of the garden. "But Poppa, how will I know what to do?" Theo worried. She had never gardened by herself before."
TASTY RATING: !!!