Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Gardener & The Library

written by Sarah Stewart
illustrated by David Small
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux | Library 1995; Gardener 1997

If you don't know these books, go get them right now. If you don't know wife and husband team Sarah Stewart and David Small - seek out all their other collaborations while you're at it. They are all pretty wonderful.

The Gardener, a Cadecott Honor book, is about young Lydia Grace Finch, who is sent to live with her Uncle Jim in the city from her family's home in the country during the Great Depression ("Papa has been out of work for a long time, and no one asks Mama to make dresses anymore"). She's used to a lot of space and tending garden with her Grandma, so the move is a shock. She helps out in the bakery her Uncle runs. Soon, she is cultivating seeds and growing flowers in window boxes and in the storefront and has earned the nickname "The Gardener." Finally, she notices a secret spot on the roof, and prepares a surprise for her Uncle Jim.

The Library is about Elizabeth Brown, a young girl who loves books. As she grows older and her personal library also grows, soon she can't even get into her house! So she opens a lending library so others can enjoy her books, too. Written in short, sweet verse, the book is incredibly endearing.

David Small's art is a joy. Visit his site here if you aren't familiar with him or check out my post on his newest illustrated book, One Cool Friend. An example of the brilliance of Small's art: when Lydia gets off the train in the city, the double page spread is of the station, huge and ghostly, looming in gray tones with light streaking from high windows. Lydia stands, small and alone in the bottom left hand corner with a spot of white space around her. She is the only color on the page in her blue dress, green ha,t and bright orange hair. She stares up towards the top right corner. She is vulnerable, wide-eyed with adventure and trepidation. Small provides for us, on a wordless page, and important transitional moment from the country to the city - from innocence to maturation, from being cared for to being more independent. Beauty.

Elizabeth Brown always with
a book!
The two books are similar in style and they make a fantastic pair, much like Stewart and Small themselves.

Lydia earns her nickname after prettying
up her uncle's bakery.

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