Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Henkes, Kevin. 2010. MY GARDEN. New York: Greenwillow. ISBN 9780061715174 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK–2]
At first glance this picture book seems to celebrate gardening very realistically. The narrator briefly describes working in her mother’s garden: “I water. I weed. And I chase away the rabbits.” She describes her mother’s garden as “very nice” before launching into a list of imaginary wonders she would cultivate if she had her very own garden. Beginning with a garden in which weeds don’t grow and always blooming flowers never die, she spins a more fantastic yarn on each page: flowers change colors and patterns, picked flowers spring right back up, chocolate rabbits abound, umbrellas, sea shells and jelly bean bushes grow along with beach ball sized tomatoes and invisible carrots. It seems the story will end back in the real world when the narrator makes a trip to her mother’s garden to plant a seashell before heading off to bed. Fantasy lingers when the seashell begins to take root in Henkes’ final illustration.
Simple, oversized text and vibrant art make for a great read aloud. Henkes’ circular illustrations of the mother’s garden give readers the sense they are peeking through a hole in the fence for a limited view. In contrast, his illustrations of the imaginary garden fill the entire page. Both use a glowing pastel pallette and overflow with appealingly riotous detail.
Before reading this book, invite young readers to share their experiences with gardens. Then encourage them to imagine gardens in which unexpected, impossible things might grow. After brainstorming ideas, read MY GARDEN and contrast the children’s imaginary gardens with those described by Henkes.
Other picture books about gardens:
Brown, Peter. THE CURIOUS GARDEN ISBN 9780316015479
Bunting, Eve. FLOWER GARDEN. ISBN 9780152023720
By Suzy Parchman