Top 100 Picture Books #92: The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small
Written as a series of letters, this book shows the beauty of nature and the importance of hard work. Also a great read for adults, especially those who remember and were effected by the Great Depression. – Gina Detate
Previously the book was #94 on the list and like Where Is the Green Sheep? it hasn’t deviated much from its original spot. This is one of those books that have lasted as long as they have thanks to their superior husband and wife teamwork. I am therefore very pleased to announce that we will be seeing yet another David Small/Sarah Stewart collaboration published from Macmillan (I believe) this coming fall.
If this poll is good for nothing else, it’s very useful in terms of me digging up my old reviews. Here’s a description I found in a review that I wrote for Amazon back in 2004: “The year: 1935, and Lydia Grace Finch is being sent from the country to go live with her Uncle Jim in the city. Lydia Grace faces this challenge with resolve and a little sadness. After all, she is leaving her family behind and the effects of the Great Depression having taken their toll. The city is a gray dirty place and Uncle Jim is kind but he never smiles. Soon it’s Spring again and Lydia has found a place to call her own (the building’s abandoned roof). Her number one goal is to get Uncle Jim to smile, and she’s fairly certain that the answer to this problem is just around the corner.”
I’ve heard more than one person tell me that of all the Sarah Stewart/David Small pairings out there, this one is their favorite. I may have to agree. Truly, though, it was put best by Anita Silvey who said of the title, “When this book appeared in 1997, I thought it a wonderful re-creation of the Depression Era for children. Now it seems to me an even more important book. With children who might well identify with a parent out of work or having little money, the book speaks to the true American can-do spirit. Make beauty where none exists; plant victory gardens; transform useless landscapes into those that produce food and joy; reuse and recycle. The Gardener can be used to talk about all of these contemporary issues. It continues to send its readers off to find that “bit of earth,” whether in vacant lots, window boxes, or well-laid-out garden beds.”
Publishers Weekly said, “This inspiring offering from creative collaborators (The Library) gets much of its vitality from what it leaves unsaid.”
Said SLJ, “This is a story to share one-on-one, talking about the pictures together and then poring over the details alone.”
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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