From the Publisher
"A quietly marvelous picture book... Echoing the themes of The Secret Garden, it is an ecological fable, a whimsical tale celebrating perseverance and creativity."—The New York Times
* "A quiet but stirring fable of urban renewal, sure to capture imaginations."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "The art is spectacular and the book might inspire children to engage in small projects to improve their own neighborhoods."—School Library Journal, starred review
…a quietly marvellous picture book…As all good, enduring stories are, The Curious Garden is a rich palimpsest. Echoing the themes of The Secret Garden, it is an ecological fable, a whimsical tale celebrating perseverance and creativity, and a rousing paean, encouraging every small person and every big person that they too can nurture their patch of earth into their very own vision of Eden.
The New York Times
Brown's (Chowder) latest is a quiet but stirring fable of urban renewal, sure to capture imaginations. In exploring his bleak city neighborhood, thoughtful Liam-in Brown's warm, almost fuzzy acrylic spreads, he looks a little like a friendly, redheaded wooden puppet-notices that some flowering plants have appeared on an old elevated railway track. He teaches himself to care for them ("The flowers nearly drowned and he had a few pruning problems, but the plants patiently waited while Liam found better ways of gardening"), and the garden responds by "growing restless. It wanted to explore." In one of several wordless spreads, Liam stands against a bright blue sky, surrounded by a thick patch of daisies. Spring brings a burst of new energy: "the tough little weeds and mosses set out first. They popped up farther and farther from the railway.... but the most surprising things that popped up were the new gardeners." In Brown's utopian vision, the urban and the pastoral mingle to joyfully harmonious effect-especially on the final pages, which show a city filled with rooftop gardens, fantastic topiaries, windmills and sparkling ponds. Ages 3-6. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Despite living in a dreary city with no gardens or trees, young Liam loves to walk outside, even in the rain. One morning he climbs up to explore the tracks of an unused railway. There he discovers to his surprise some plants and wildflowers. They seem to be dying, so Liam begins to tend them. Slowly the plants start to spread along the tracks. When winter snow cuts him off from the garden area, Liam lays his plans for the spring. Soon the garden begins to spread all over town. And everywhere other gardeners take up the call, until "the entire city had blossomed" years later. Acrylic and gouache scenes sometimes fill double pages while sometimes recording plant growth in vignettes. The geometric shapes of Liam's town make fine contrasts to the emerging organic growth. The gardens gradually turn the grim dullness of the story's initial image, with smoke stacks emitting clouds of black smoke, to the clear view of greenery and windmills. The end pages offer a similar contrast. Brown adds a note about the inspiration for this encouraging view of a possible greener future. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
"There once was a city without gardens or trees or greenery of any kind." Thus begins an eco-fantasy in which Liam climbs a stairway leading to abandoned railway tracks and discovers wildflowers and plants struggling to grow. Initially an inept gardener, the boy improves with time, and the garden begins to prosper. He continues his work after the winter snows, and diverse city residents of all ages join in the effort. Plants that spill over onto the letters of the title page foreshadow the glorious flowering to come. But first, readers experience, via Brown's framed acrylic and gouache spreads and vignettes, a smog-filled metropolis bereft of outdoor inhabitants except for Liam, who doggedly explores its dreary streets. Flat, stylized paintings depict the gradual greening of the city. Dark skies gradually become a strikingly blue home for birds; red buildings appear amid the gray ones; and the stark beginning endpapers transform into lush green flower-filled pages at the end. In a lengthy note, Brown explains that this fantasy is based on his real-life discovery of the defunct High Line elevated railway in New York City where he found plants growing amid the rubble. While the story lacks tension and is at times sentimental, the art is spectacular and the book might inspire children to engage in small projects to improve their own neighborhoods.-Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT
Liam, a curious little boy who likes to be outside, lives in a city "without gardens or trees or greenery of any kind." One day, while exploring an abandoned elevated railbed, he discovers a small patch of weeds and wildflowers. After a little bit of trial and error, Liam nurses his newfound plot into a "restless" garden that explores the length of the railway and, after a dormant winter, begins to find its way into the city below. Brown's flat, faintly retro graphics make a vigorous accompaniment to his fey text, which personifies the "curious garden" with appealing earnestness. In an author's note he describes the greening of Manhattan's abandoned Highline, which inspired this hopeful little paean to the persistence of growing things in the dreariest places. (Picture book. 3-7)
Children's Literature - Joan Kindig
As Liam is walking around the city one day he happens to look up and notices things growing on an old abandoned elevated subway line. Being the curious boy he is, he finds a way up to the tracks and finds that a number of things are growing there. There are weeds, of course, but that just means all kinds of things can grow there. Sure enough, there are some lovely plants growing beside the weeds. Liam takes it upon himself to care for the plants and before long a curious garden takes shape. The garden grows and expands and spills over the trestles to the streets below. City streets become filled with flowers and plants of all kinds. This story is a great one to use with young children who are studying plant life, planting gardens, or ecology. Oddly enough, this book is based on the true story of the famous High Line in New York City. Once an abandoned and ugly eleed line, the High Line was reclaimed and is now a gorgeous garden where people can go to experience a bit of nature in the big city. Like the book, it is a testament to the beauty and strength of nature and how it is everywhere if we choose to look. An informative interview with author/illustrator Peter Brown rounds out this DVD as he discusses how the book came about and how he hopes it will get children thinking about nature in all its forms. This animated DVD narrated by Katherine Kellgren is ideal for classroom use and for children's literature enthusiasts. Running time: 10 minutes. Reviewer: Joan Kindig, Ph.D.