The Gardener written by Sarah Stewart; illustrated by David Small
Stewart, S. (1997). The gardener. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Category: Historical fiction picture book
Summary: Lydia Grace Finch is sent to help her uncle Jim in his bakery in the city. A gardener at heart, Lydia is on a mission to make her surly uncle smile with the beautiful flowers she grows. Set during the Depression, Lydia’s story is told through a series of letters to her family.
Theme: People have the power to create beauty and joy wherever they go.
Generalizations: family, community, helping
Potential uses in the classroom: The Gardener can be used to talk about concepts such as family and community, as well as helping. Teachers and students can discuss the book’s unique text structure—the story is told entirely as a series of letters that Lydia sends to family members. What can students infer from the illustrations? As a writing exercise, students can use letter-writing to tell a story. This book can also be incorporated into a science unit. Students can grow and study some of the same flowers that Sarah grows on her rooftop garden.
Melissa’s note: Gardening is a passion of mine, so I gravitate to books, especially picture books, that include some element of plants and flowers. The Gardener is a heartwarming story—all Lydia wants to do is plant flowers and make her uncle smile—and the illustrations are magical. I appreciate the message that we have the power to create beauty. The Gardener is a Caldecott Honor book.