Monday, April 18, 2016

Picture Book Monday with a review of the Night Gardener

Many people think that 'art' has to fit into one of three categories. It has to be a piece of music, a painting or a drawing, or a sculpture. However, there are other forms of art that might not fit into one of these pigeon holes. What about a piece of furniture or a quilt? What about a basket or a glass vase? What about a wrought iron gate or a musical instrument? What about a tree or shrub that has been clipped and clipped until it looks like an animal or some lovely shape? All of these things are also works of art, and all of them can, and do, enrich out lives.
   In this picture book we see how a topiary artist manages, one topiary at a time, to bring beauty to the lives of people who so desperately need something in their world that will uplift them.


The Night GardenerThe Night Gardener
Terry and Eric Fan
Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2016, 978-1-4814-3978-7
Grimloch Lane is a rather sad place. The homes are ramshackle, weeds grow up through cracks in the sidewalk, and the people who live there don’t really connect with one another. One night, while everyone in the lane is asleep, a man gets to work on one of the trees that stands outside the Grimloch Orphanage.
   When William looks out his window in the morning he sees that something is going on outside so he goes to investigate. What he discovers is that someone has clipped a tree next to the orphanage so that it looks like a beautiful owl. William is entranced by the topiary owl and he gazes at it all day long. When he goes to sleep that night he does so “with a sense of excitement.”
   The following morning another tree on Grimoloch Lane has been turned into a work of art. This time the topiary makes the tree look like a cat at rest.
   Each day a new topiary appears, and now the people living in Grimloch Lane have something to look forward to. They gather to admire their beautiful topiaries and “Something good” starts to happen to everyone who sees the special trees.
   We tend to think that real change can only happen when something really big happens, but sometimes change can come about when a little piece of magic is added to our lives. As the story in this book unfolds, we see how the introduction of beauty affects the people who live in a place that has so little beauty and happiness to offer. Best of all, the instrument of change is not someone who is rich and powerful, instead he is a humble person who just happens to have a gift for turning already lovely trees into gorgeous works of art.

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