The power of gardens in children’s picture books. A list of favourite titles

I’d like to preserve my daughter’s curiosity and to encourage her interest in the way the world works for as long as I could but on the other hand I want her to understand the force of nature and to realize its magnificence.

Yesterday I was reading an article in the newspaper stating that the intelligence level in most of the European countries is dropping; migration is one of the major reasons but there is evidence suggesting that the more advance technology becomes the less educated and intelligent people are. We like to believe we have control on everything but the tendency is completely unrealistic. We need to learn to be more reasonable and more realistic. Our perception of the world is often superficial and too self-centered.

Picture books with gardens are for me a special resource when teaching my daughter about our world and the way we should relate to it. Gardens not only inspire pleasure for being outdoors and restore healthy habits but they teach us about nature and cycles of life, they show us how to rediscover the sense of the miraculous, offering valuable lessons about strength, patience and persistence. A garden will always feed us physically and emotionally. This kind of readings educate us to celebrate the miracle of life and growing, setting the base of study for future botanists, vets, philosophers, natural historians and, most important, balanced, healthy grown-ups.

Please find below a list with some of my favourite picture books on gardens and the emotions and experiences beyond:

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

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Liam, a little red-haired boy, lives in a city that has no gardens, no flowers, no plants. Exploring the dark city one day he comes across an abandoned railroad where a small garden struggles to survive. Perseverant and extremely creative, Liam becomes the gardener and the inspiration of the neighbourhood. As seasons pass the boy will manage to turn his city in a vivid, green place, involving the whole community.

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

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A young boy recounts the story of his grandpa who used to be a little boy himself but who is now pretty old and experiences memory loss problems. Heartwarming, using amazing visual messages, Smith manages to capture the profound connections between young and old generations, the special relationship a great-grandson has with his great- grandfather.

Full review here.

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Weslandia by Paul Fleischman. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

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Wesley needs a project to fill his time during the school holiday; he’s not very much into football and haircuts so he is determined to found a civilization of his own. In the back of the garden the boy will grow plants, design clothing and even invent event an original language for his imaginary society. Soon the other children will join his project.

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Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork. Illustrated by Lena Anderson

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Linnea is a curious girl who is interested in everything that grows. When her friend, retired Mr. Bloom takes her to Paris to visit Monet’s garden, Linnea is thrilled to discover the beautiful flowers adored and painted by Claude Monet and to stand on the Japanese little bridge she had previously seen in his paintings.

See full review here.

Linnea in Monet's Garden

Grandma’s Gloves by Cecil Castelluci. Illustrated by Julia Denos

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When a little girl loses her grandmother who loved gardening she realizes that the most comforting activity for her sadness would be to carry on all the activities she used to do outside with her grandma.

Grandma has a way with flowers. she is always on her knees in the mud, with her gloves on, talking to her roses, scolding the succulents and singing with the blackbirds. her whole house is filled with plants, and outside, her small garden is full of blossom.

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The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers

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What a magical story! From the window of his room at Grimloch Orphanage, William discovers that a wise owl appeared overnight. To his surprise a new topiary will emerge every day, changing the whole town. When he finally finds the artist his life is going to change forever. The Night Gardener is a fascinating story about hope, creativity and beauty of nature.

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Florette by Anna Walker

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Florette is an urban story about the impact of nature on our moods and preoccupations. Mae moves with her family from the country to Paris but she feels sad and lonely and misses her apple trees. Her perspective will change the moment she discovers a special place that will make her feel like home.

A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope by Michael Foreman

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Michael Foreman’s moving story reminds readers about the impact of war and poverty on children but also insists on the power of their creativity and the intensity of their hope. In the middle of a war zone a little boy dares to create a garden.

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Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault

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Virginia Wolf is a wonderful story about the strong connections between sisters, about depression and about the impact on art on our lives. When Virginia wakes up one morning in a wolfish mood her sister comforts her and begins to paint on the walls of the room turning it into an incredible garden.

See full review here.

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There’s a Tiger in the Garden by Lizzy Stewart

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Grandma tells Nora there is a tiger in the garden and she should go outside and play. Nora is skeptical as she knows tigers live only in jungles but then she sees luxuriant plants and enormous, colorful butterflies and even a polar bear.  A full of life picture book about imagination and possibilities.

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Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

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Written in bug language, Du Iz Tak? explores the principles of existence of the micro universes, smaller copies of the human world, following the cycle of life and experimenting the wide variety of emotions life offers.

See full review here.

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The Last Tiger by Rebecca Elliott

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The story is a thoughtful warning on the effects of the unwise human intervention on the environment. In a destroyed city a boy finds the last tiger. As their friendship grows they rediscover a healthy, fresh and safe way of living.

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