The Gardener

The Gardener


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By the author-and-illustrator team of the bestselling The Library

Lydia Grace Finch brings a suitcase full of seeds to the big gray city, where she goes to stay with her Uncle Jim, a cantankerous baker. There she initiates a gradual transformation, bit by bit brightening the shop and bringing smiles to customers' faces with the flowers she grows. But it is in a secret place that Lydia Grace works on her masterpiece — an ambitious rooftop garden — which she hopes will make even Uncle Jim smile. Sarah Stewart introduces readers to an engaging and determined young heroine, whose story is told through letters written home, while David Small's illustrations beautifully evoke the Depression-era setting.

The Gardener is a 1997 New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year and a 1998 Caldecott Honor Book.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312367497
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 05/01/2007
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 40
Sales rank: 73,255
Product dimensions: 7.82(w) x 10.57(h) x 0.14(d)
Lexile: AD570L (what's this?)
Age Range: 4 - 7 Years

About the Author

Husband and wife duo Sarah Stewart and David Small have worked together on several picture books, including The Friend, The Money Tree, and The Library. The Gardener is a Caldecott Honor book. Small has also illustrated other books, including the 2001 Caldecott Medal winner So You Want to Be President?, by Judith St. George. Stewart and Small live in a historic home on a bend of the St. Joseph River in Michigan.

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. How does David Small, the illustrator, use the endpapers to suggest what the book is about?

2. Have students look at the entire book without reading the text. Ask the class to choose words that best describe Elizabeth. Read the text aloud. Ask students to compare their descriptions of Elizabeth with the way she is presented in the book by Sarah Stewart.

3. Note the black-and-white sketches located near the text on each page (e.g., the stork on page 7). What is the purpose of these motifs?

4. Elizabeth Brown decides to settle down and begins tutoring for pay. Discuss why tutoring is a good job for Elizabeth Brown. Speculate: Whom does she tutor? What subject might she tutor?

5. Ask students to suggest book titles for the children's collection at the Elizabeth Brown Free Library. Have them share their suggestions in class and explain their choices. Have the class determine how each book should be classified.

6. Sponsor a class "readers' olympiad." Ask students to draw up the rules (e.g., the number of books or pages to be read, ways to share the books, how winners are to be chosen). Ask each student to design a bookmark that might be given to a child who participates in the event.

7. Tell students that the Boston Public Library is the first public library in the United States to lend a book. Encourage students to visit the Web site for the Boston Public Library (, and ask them to find out what programs the library offers children. Students may also be interested in finding out the history of the public library in their community.

Customer Reviews

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Gardener 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
IEliasson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written and illustrated by the wife and husband team, Sarah Stewart and David Small, The Gardener is a book that resembles classics of years past, but was in reality published in 1997. Consequently, historical fiction does not adequately describe this picture book that transports the reader back to the hard scrabble life of the Great Depression. Lydia Grace Finch, the author of the letters that narrate this story, is a farm girl sent to live in the big city with her Uncle Jim, the baker. Lydia Grace¿s perseverance and optimism lift the story and its characters out of the doldrums of the depression with her kindheartedness and gardening acuity. David Small¿s pen and ink, and pastel illustrations with occasional washes of watercolor are poignant depictions of each of Lydia Grace¿s letters; the urban images are reminiscent of hand painted tintypes and rural representatives picture sun-filled bucolic prospects. For young readers, The Gardener is charming introduction to the dying art of letter-writing and the vicissitudes of life during the Great Depression.
Glenajo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautiful story of a young girl who has to go live with her uncle when her father does not have a job. She makes the best of the situation, and brings beauty to all those around her. The story shows how even a child can make a difference in her surroundings.The story is written in letters to her family at home.
allawishus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked this Depression-era look at a young country girl, Lydia, who goes to live in the city with her Uncle Jim. The story is communicated via letters she writes - first to her Uncle Jim, and then to her mother, father, and grandmother back on the farm. Lydia has arrived in the city with a present of seeds from her grandmother and immediatly begins utlizing Uncle Jim's flower boxes to begin her garden. Lydia works in her Uncle's bakery, goes to school, and gardens. Soon her garden begins overflowing - from the window boxes, to the apartment, to the bakery, and finally to the roof - where she is planning to surprise her Uncle Jim with a beautiful garden. I loved how the illustrations did so much of the storytelling - the letters do the job of telling what Lydia wants her family to know, but the illustrations amplify the story - we see the never-smiling Uncle Jim, the hopefulness of Lydia, her aloneness, and then the warmth in the illustrations starts to build as Lydia grows her garden and attracts a community/substitute family of people around her. Really really good job of a sort-of dual-storytelling method.
Meg_Harrison on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The gardener is written entirely in letters from a young girl sent to live with her uncle in the city during the Great Depression. The beautiful pictures change from dark to bright, marking a change in mood as the young girl finds a way to cheer up her grumpy uncle.This is a touching story that teaches endurance, history, and finding good in hard places.
aengle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Gardener is written in the form of letters throughout the book. This picture book is based during the time period of the Great Depression and the affect it had on one type of person's lifestyle during that era
ValerieStanley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lydia Grace's family can't make ends meet, so she packs her things, along with a bag full of seeds, and gets on a train to her gloomy Uncle Jim's house. He has a bakery and Lydia is eager to learn how to bake but more eager to plant her seeds. Her main pursuit in the this book is to make her uncle smile. This is a wonderful book. I like how it is told through the letters that Lydia was writing back home to her family. It is different from any book that I have ever read. The pictures are wonderful and very colorful. This book could be read with a science activity in mind. The class could plant their own seeds and watch them grow into beautiful flowers like Lydia did.
theblindlibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The GardenerBy Sarah Stewart2007, Square Fish, MacMillanCaldecott Honor BookReview by Debra Louise ScottThe Gardener is written from the point of view of young Lydia who has to go live with her gruff uncle until her unemployed parents can find work again. We hear her story through the letters she writes as she compares life in the city with her rural home. In true Pollyanna fashion, she finds the best in her situation, learning to work in the bakery and discovering a place where she can create her own urban garden. Her Grandma sends her flower bulbs and seeds, and Lydia brings home dirt from the vacant lot nearby to plant them in. Even though Uncle Jim never smiles, she catches the little clues that tell her he cares for her, like putting the poem she wrote in his pocket and patting it. He gives her a big surprise at the end along with the news that Papa found a job and she can go back home. It¿s a very sweet little story, for all the tragic undertones. I¿m sure there are many children today who will relate to Lydia¿s situation and feel a little less alone.
melissaboyd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this is a great book for any child who enjoys gardening it shows that with a little time anything can become beautiful.
megjwal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Gardener by Sarah StewartThis historical fiction story is about a young girl named Lydia Grace who had to move to the city with her Uncle Jim. Lydia loves to garden so she is afraid that she will not get to have a garden like she used to. Lydia learns to work in the bakery her uncle owns and also finds a new way to garden. She is also determined to make her uncle smile with a surprise. Lydia starts making the bakery and eventually her uncle happy again, even though it is a hard time for everyone.I think this is a great story about how growing things can make life cheery even through the toughest times. It also reminds me of how children can make the world seem so happy by looking on the bright side.I would use this book with Pre-K to 2nd grade students. I would use it in the spring to talk about gardens. I would have the students draw a picture and write or have someone else write about what they would have in their garden.
paroof on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written in diary format, this book chronicles a young girl's experience during the Great Depression. When her father loses his job, she is sent to the city to live with her grouchy Uncle Jim, a baker, and to help in the bakery. Her grandmother has instilled a love of gardening in her and she brings that passion with her to city. Lydia's presence brightens those around her, even that of her grouchy uncle. I was surprised at how much my five year old son liked this book, but he has asked me to read it over and over. This illustrations are beautiful, the story is warm, the format is unique, and even a good stepping stone to talk about the Great Depression. Overall, I highly recommend it!
CMBLA More than 1 year ago
David Small's illustrations and Sarah Stewart's text are so perfect that this book is a masterpiece. The story of the child sent to the city to stay with an uncle during a time of financial crisis, tells the story of a child with a great heart, a willingness to help, and a secret agenda: to get her uncle to smile. Her flowers bring joy to everyone who sees them, and there are many who come to see the garden she makes. It is a bit of putting joy where there is no joy, and then finding joy. And yes, the smile does come, finally, and the child does return to her family, and the crisis has passed. It is a life story for each one of us. Get several, to keep and give away.
Brasseur More than 1 year ago
My twin grandsons aged 5 1/2 responded warmly to this tale of a young girl who is sent off to live with her bakery owning uncle in the city during the Great Depression in order to ease the burden of her own parents and perhaps to provide another worker for the bakery. This is a delightful story to hear and to see. The illustrations are charming and perfectly accessible to young kids and it's fun and instructive to have the story unfold through the main character's letters home to her family.
grisaille More than 1 year ago
This is a sweet, wonderful story about the positive impact one person can have on the people and world around her. I like the fact that the entire story is told through a series of letters; the reader has to pick up on what is not being said in the letters by studying the wonderful artwork. Highly recommended to gardeners, wannabe gardeners, bakers, and anyone looking for a little inspiration.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was named a Caldecott Honor Book. This book would be appropriate for children ages 4-8. This is a very heartwarming story about Lydia Grace, 10 year old little girl, who is growing up during the Depression. Her father loses his job and they feel it is best if Lydia Grace goes to live with her Uncle Jim until things get better. Lydia Grace is not only upset about leaving her parents she knows that in the city she can not plant the seed and flowers. But when she gets there she sees some window boxes that need tending to. She writes to Grandma, ¿Dearest Grandma, Thank you for the seeds. Everytime I doze off, I dream of gardens¿. I feel kids would enjoy the resilience that Lydia Grace shows in this story. I really enjoyed reading about her. The author of this book is Sarah Stewart and the Illustrator is David Small. They have worked together on several books. They are also husband and wife. When Mrs. Stewart isn¿t writing she enjoys working in her garden. Stewart, Sarah. The Gardener. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1997.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Moving from the country to the city can be scary especially for Lydia Grace. She has to move away from her mother, father, and grandmother to her Uncle Jim's place in the city. Lydia Grace 'knows alot about gardening but nothing about baking.' She is worried that she will not have a place to garden in the city. But when she gets there she finds out that there are window boxes there, and that Uncle Jim doesn't smile. Will Lydia Grace ever get to go home? Will she ever learn about baking? Will she ever get Uncle Jim to smile? All of these questions are answered in 'The Gardener' This book is really enjoyable an also educational. If you were to do a lesson plan this would be a great illustration to use for writing letters. This book is a 3rd grade reading level and is a wonderful book. Stewart, Sarah. THE GARDENER. New York:Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997
Guest More than 1 year ago
Two thumbs up!! I really enjoyed 'The Gardener.' Lydia Grace a little girl in love with gardens and flowers illustrated to the readers that a little love, care, and enjoyment can transform anything into beautiful. But not only does she face the task of making the town colorful, but she is determined to get her uncle to smile. Will she succeed? You'll just have to read to find out. Sarah Stewart is a terrific writer and she is able to display her love for gardens and flowers just like Lydia Grace in 'The Gardener.' It was definitely deserving of the Caldecott Medal. Stewart, Sarah. Small, David. The Gardener. USA: Berryville Graphics, 1997
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Gardener is a Caldecott Honor Book. A little girl named Lydia Grace is sent to live with her uncle until things get better. Lydia Grace writes letters to her family discussing her feelings about moving. Lydia Grace loves to plant flowers and seeds. She is worried that there will be no place for her to plant things when she gets to her Uncle Jims. She writes, ¿Dearest Grandma, Thank you for the seeds. ¿.every time I doze off, I dream of gardens.¿ Will Lydia Grace be able to plant the seeds that her Grand mother gave her? This book would be good for 3rd-6th grade. This book would help to show that writing letters can express your feelings. This book is a realistical fiction book. This is actually something that could really happen. I really enjoyed this book. The author Sarah Stewart has worked with David Small on several books. They combine their talents to produce wonderful books. When Sarah isn¿t writing she is in her Garden. Ms. Stewart and Mr. Small are married and live in a historic house in Michigan. Stewart, Sarah. The Gardener. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1997.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What is your passion in life? In this children¿s picture book, ¿The Gardener¿ a Caldecott Honor Book in 1997 Lydia Grace Finch passion is gardening. Lydia is writing a letter to her Uncle Jim who lives in the city. It seems that Lydia papa has been out of work for a long time, and she is being sent to live with him until things get better. Her uncle has a bakery in the city, so she writes him a letter while at the train station telling him three important things that she can¿t say to his face. 1. I know a lot about gardening, but nothing about baking. 2. I¿m anxious to learn to bake, but is there any place to plant seeds? 3. I like to be called ¿Lydia Grace¿ ¿ just like Grandma. When Lydia arrives in the city, she writes to her Mama, Papa, and Grandma. I¿m so exited! There are window boxes here! They look as if they¿ve been waiting for me, so now we¿ll both wait for spring. P.S. Uncle Jim doesn¿t smile. Because Lydia Uncle Jim doesn¿t smile, she makes it her mission to get him to smile and in the mean time, she starts planting flowers in her secret place to surprise her uncle¿. Do you think that Lydia will be able to make her uncle smile and surprise him with her garden? To find out the rest of this story, read this wonderful book ¿The Gardener¿ by Sarah Stewart. Sarah Stewart grew up in Texas. She has held the position of teacher, and speechwriter. All her books have been illustrated by David Small (her husband). They share their historic home on a bend of the St. Joseph River in Michigan. Their two children are now grown. And only Otis their cat is at home. Other books you will enjoy by this author are: The Money Tree, The Library, and The Journey. Stewart Sarah, The Gardener, Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, 1997
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Gardner, is a good book to make kids realize whatever is going on in their life good or bad, they can still focus on something they enjoy and make good out of it. Hobbies can bring lots of happiness and enjoyment to the person doing it and the people around them. Sarah Stewart was a skinny, nearsighted, and very shy child. Crowds of two overwhelmed her. When her mother would invite her bridge club to their house, she would flee to her closet, armed with stuffed animals and favorite books, and stay there for hours. Besides the closet, there were two other safe places in her young life: their neighborhood library and her grandmother's garden. To this very day the library and the garden remain her favorite places. She has five gardens and an orchard in which she works, almost daily, from early May until the first frost. Then much of the late fall and winter is spent in her library, daydreaming and reading and writing, on the second floor of her home. Like a small animal in hibernation, she makes a warm nest in the old wing chair with her grandmother's quilt and the lamp and her beloved books. The Gardner, is a book about a young girl and her poor family. She goes to the city to live with her uncle and work in his bakery. She works in the bakery and grows flowers. Others start helping her out with growing flowers. They start to enjoy the flowers like she does. ¿Some neighbors have brought containers for me to fill with flowers, and a few customers even gave me plants from their gardens this spring!¿. It shows how people are getting involved with her flower project. Stewart, Sarah. The Gardner. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1997. Grade Level: 3rd
Guest More than 1 year ago
i remember reading this book too in the bookstore when i was 9 and i've been looking for it ever since. its a really great story and i highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story is set in the 1930's and is written in the format of letters written by a little girl who goes to live with her Uncle for short time in order to help him. While she's there she begins to 'spruce up' the place with her green thumb. I won't say anymore. The illustrations are great and the story is one that brought tears to my husbands eyes! This story is a breath of fresh air in the midst of a whole lot of garbage out there. I'm buying it in hardcover because I want to pass it down to my children. =]
Guest More than 1 year ago
i actually remembered this book, the title, from when i first read it, at the age of 8 years. i didn't want to ask to buy it, since it wouldve been impolite at the time. i thought it was the sweetest picture book i ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mary Stewart has written a truely inspiring story about one little girl who brings joy to many during a particular difficult time in history. David Small has captured the essence of the story with his beautiful illustrations. As a future teacher, I will include this book in my classroom library and use it to integrate literature into other subjects such as science and English(letter writing).