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.