The Night Gardener, where magic awaits you when you wake

Recently, I discovered a magical book that will capture your heart.  In The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers, published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016.  This book takes place on Grimloch Lane in what I am guessing is the 1940s.  This book is about a little boy, William,  who makes a magical discovery when he wakes one morning.  The tree outside his window that had been a completely ordinary tree when he went to sleep the night before had somehow transformed into an owl.  William wondered how this magical owl could have appeared; only to find that the following morning another topiary appeared.  With each new topiary that was created the crowds of people grew and grew, all in wonder an amazement in how the trees were transformed into such whimsical designs and who could possibly be doing it.

I don’t want to spoil the fun, but William decides he wants to know how these magical topiaries are coming to be, so he waits and follows until he finds out.  William meets a new friend who shows him all of his artistic abilities.  Together they work into the wee hours of the morning creating some of the most spectacular sculptures.  Overtime, the seasons begin to change and the leaves fall.  However, the people of the town had changed along with all those magical trees.

I would be remiss, if I did not share the amazing talents of Eric & Terry Fan who illustrated this book; their first book.  The illustrations start out dreary with a deep sense of sadness.  Williams’ home is in the Grimloch Orphanage and a sense of despair is conveyed in the sepia tones of the illustrations.  When the topiaries start to appear little dabs of color here and there enter into the story, bringing with it life, joy and a sense of magical wonder.  By the time the fourth topiary appears all the colors of the rainbow are present.  By the time the fifth tree is sculpted the town people appear with musical instruments and balloons.  The topiaries bring the town to life with whimsy.

This book is intended for preschool age to third grade.  With that said, I think that this book would be perfect to use in the classroom for creative writing in upper elementary and middle school.  I love how the illustrations play such a critical role in the telling of this story – I would love to use this story to exemplify mood and tone.  Another area where I think that this book would be a fantastic choice would be in an upper grade art class.  These illustrations are the epitome of mood and feeling.  I think it would be an amazing study to have students choose a feeling or mood and then illustrate it in a similar way.  Doesn’t that sound like an amazing art lesson to you?

I love this book, I found myself reading it well after the petites had gone to bed and gushing about the incredible talent of Eric and Terry Fan to my husband.  I also wanted to know more about the genesis of this lovely book and the inspiration behind Williams journey.  I can’t wait to hear what you think about this book, please tell me what you think either here on the blog or on our Facebook page.

If you think this book sounds interesting, please also consider checking out the following book as well, Grandpa Green by Lane Smith, I wrote about it here.  It too is gorgeously illustrated and a fantastic story that needs to be on your petites shelf.


When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons

April is National Poetry Month.  This is such an incredibly fun time for most lovers of English.  I loved teaching in April and sharing poems and having students work on crafting their own.  It is a magical experience to see little ones really become creative and often times poems give just that creative outlet.


When I heard that Julie Morstad was working on a new book, I got really excited, she is one of the illustrators that I follow, or stalk might be the more appropriate way to put it.  I love her work, you will probably remember her from I am Sadie or perhaps Julia, Child, which is shared in my Petite Foodie series.  I love her work and even more so the amazing writers that she teams up with.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for all Seasons, by Julie Fogliano and art by Julie Morstad; published by A Neal Porter Book, 2016.  This is a book that shares poems for specific days throughout the year; starting in the spring and working through to the winter.  The petites particularly enjoy the poem for June 10th discussing all sorts of flowers and how they came to be, another is June 15th sharing about eating berries which is a favorite summer past time for  my girls.  Just like you will recall from This is Sadie, the illustrations are divine.  I love the small bright pops of color and attention to the little details whether is a small butterfly flitting about or a bicycle being gently dusted with snow.

Both Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad seem to have melded together to create this perfect union of words and illustrations, the imagery that is depicted within the lines of the poems are so perfect.  It is almost as if each poem has captured that particular moment in time and you feel almost as if you were right there smelling the tomatoes ripening on the vine, or the salt spray in your hair.

I think that this book would be perfect to share with petites to spark their creativity and foster a love for the seasons.  This book would also be perfect to teach poetry writing to elementary and lower middle school students.  The poetry is accessible and would be a great starting point for many students as they start to explore creative writing.

Touching Tales

I love story time, there is something so tender, so sweet about snuggling up with your petites and reading a story.  There are a few stories that we have that are so incredibly sweet they bring me to tears every single time I read them.


The first book I wanted to share with you is Someday by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds, Scholastic Inc., 2007.  I bought this book before Zoe was born and remember just sobbing sitting in my new rocking chair in an empty nursery as I read this story to my growing belly.  As I read this story to my girls this afternoon tears streamed down my face because this is the journey of a girl who becomes a mother – in that moment everything changes.  This is such a beautifully written story about a mothers love and how she watches her daughter grow into a woman and have a child of her own.  This story is perfect in every way.  I love it.  I love how it encapsulates all of what I feel for my petites now and what I can only imagine I will feel as they grow older.  (I should probably grab a box of tissues if I am going to tell you about the other two books).

I Wish You More

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, Chronicle Books, 2015.  This book was given to Zoe when she was in the hospital.  It is also a lovely story, each line starts with I wish you more it is filled with lovely sentiments that every parent would hope for their child.  “I wish you more treasures than pockets” is one of the lines that speaks to my petites, as their pockets are constantly filled with little stones, pussy-willows, flower petals and any other treasure that they find along the way.  This book is perfect for parents of boys and girls alike.  The illustrations showcase a diverse group of petites making this a perfect book for anyone who has wished something special for their own petites.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin, Random House, 2015.  I have written about my love for Emily Winfield Martin before, here and here, oh that’s right and swooned over here prints here.  Her illustrations are stunning and filled with whimsy and are delightful.  The opening line in this lovely tale is When I look at you and you look at me, I wonder what wonderful things you will be.  This books is filled with incredibly sweet sentiments that all parents wish for their petites.  Like all of Emily Winfield Martin’s work this too, is perfect for your petites shelf.

Hopefully you will enjoy these sweet books and especially with Mothers day just around the corner these might be the perfect books for the favorite Mama in your life.