Here in Toronto, spring appears to have sprung, complete with bright sunny days followed by long stretches of heavy rains. Ah, spring. How I’ve missed you! Every year around this time I re-read The Secret Garden. Alas, I seem to have misplaced my copy. Until it is found, here is a collection of my favourite springtime picture books. You’ll notice they all have a similar conceit- life is made more wonderful by flowers.
- What will YOU do to make the world a more beautiful place?
First, the one, the only, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. This is one of my favourite books, encapsulating my own personal motto: What can you do to make the world a more beautiful place? A little girl tells us about the wondrous life of her aunt, the Lupine Lady, whose life is governed by the idea that each person is put on this earth to make it a more beautiful place. Miss Rumphius does so by scattering seeds that, come spring, burst into bloom and turn a little seaside town into a seaside paradise. The book ends with the young narrator wondering what it is that she will do to make the world a more beautiful place. Has there ever been a more subtle yet effective call to action for young readers?
Sarah Stewart and David Small’s The Gardener is a perfect marraige of text and illustration. Stewart’s text is presented as letters from a young girl sent to live in the city with her uncle during the Depression. Alone, the letters make for a compelling and sweet story. Accompanied by Small’s elegant and poignant illustrations, the story shines. “The Gardener” is the nickname given to Lydia Grace Finch, who brings joy to her curmudgeony uncle by secretly planting a garden on the roof of his rundown appartment building in the city. Unique and heartwarming, Miss Rumphius herself would definitely approve of this book.
Morning Glory Monday, by Arlene Alda and illustrated by Maryann Kovalski, is yet another book about the transformative power of gardening. This book is based on true events and also takes place during the Depression, chronicling the lives of an immigrant community in New York City that is brightened by a bumper crop of Morning Glories, planted by a young girl intending to cheer up her mother. Morning Glory Monday was selected by IBBY Canada as an outstanding picture book, and for good reason.
Timmerman was Here
is a quiet picture book about small towns, suspicion, misunderstanding, and ultimately, thanks giving. Colleen Sydor achieves a great feeling of suspense throughout the book, as the reader wonders along with the narrator, just who is this Timmerman and what is he up to late at night, wandering the streets? Nicholas Debon’s illustrations are moody and atmospheric, perfectly suited to the Sydor’s tone.
Each of these books demonstrate the transformative power of something as simple as a pack of seeds. The act of planting becomes an act of kindness, of friendship, of giving back to the community. Beauty isn’t costly, but it can reap many rewards. And that is the power of flowers.