*The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small


Lydia shares her efforts to bring beauty to the world around her in this epistolary picture book.

*The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997. 32 pages.

Reading Level: Picture Books, ages 4-8

Recommended For: Ages 4 and up, especially as a read aloud!

Lydia Grace Finch is staying with her dour Uncle Jim, a baker, during the Great Depression. A lover of flowers and natural beauty, Lydia is saddened by her Uncle Jim’s gruff countenance and his drab surroundings. She hatches a plan to bring beauty to her new surroundings; her vision, along with her hard work and patience, brings a dramatic change to Uncle Jim’s shop and his roof—a change even Uncle Jim can’t help but notice and be cheered by.

The epistolary text and marvelous illustrations promote inference and imagination in the reader (rather than too much “telling”). A wonderful book to read and enjoy for its own sake, it is also a great choice for teaching epistolary form, for studying gardening or the Depression, or for new readers who are ready for complex texts but lack the stamina for chapter books. Use it as a jumping-off point for talking about how we can bring beauty into the lives of others and glorify God in the process.

Cautions: none

Overall Rating: 5

  • Worldview rating: 5
  • Artistic rating: 5

Categories: Picture Books, Award Winners, Historical Fiction, Character Values, Starred Review
*indicates starred review

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Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.

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