The narrator’s beloved grandmother is a gardener extraordinaire, a woman who is always “on her knees in the dirt, with her gloves on, talking to her roses, scolding the succulents, and laughing with the birds-of-paradise.” When Grandma falls ill and dies suddenly, the girl is bereft--until she realizes that she can carry on Grandma’s legacy by growing a garden of her own. Castellucci’s evocative, love-infused prose (“I run to her, and she folds me in her fleshy arms for a big kiss. She smells like earth and coffee and hair spray and perfume”) turns heartbreaking in Grandma’s absence (“Everyone dies one day. I know that. The old tree down in the park died.... And now Grandma’s died”), but novelist Castellucci (The Queen of Cool), in her picture book debut, also makes it clear that the narrator finds strength and consolation in her memories. Denos’s (My Little Girl) lush watercolors are a natural for the garden setting, but she also shows a real gift for portraying both characters and a setting marked by loss. Ages 5-8. (Aug.)
Grandma is always on her knees in the dirt, with her gardening gloves on, talking to her roses and laughing with the birds-of-paradise. Her home brims with plants and blossoms, and on hot days, she waters her granddaughter, her "most special flower of all," with the garden hose. But a day comes when Grandma is no longer there to care for the little girl, who feels sad and small and alone until she remembers all that her grandmother taught her — and all that she now has to teach. Full of light and life and the solace of green growing things, this moving and beautifully illustrated picture book explores a timeless bond with warmth and joy.
Gr 1–3—"Grandma has a way with flowers," reports the young narrator of this sweet tribute to intergenerational relationships and the circle of life. Readers know right away all the important things about the child's grandmother: the way she smells, the kind of tea she pours, her green thumb, and that she sometimes repeats things. This one characteristic foreshadows the woman's decline in health. When she is hospitalized and later dies, readers are as accepting of this last stage of life as is her granddaughter, who says, "Everything dies one day. I know that." Taking Grandma's gardening gloves as a keepsake, she promises to teach her own mother what she has learned about gardening, closing the circle of birth, death, and renewal. Castellucci's narrative details give voice to the perspicacity of a sensitive child—the smells, gestures, and alterations of experience that are noticed but rarely articulated. Denos's watercolor, pencil, and digital collage illustrations are bright and charming. Her depictions of the interactions of the winsome main character and her family will evoke recognition in readers and add to the story's usefulness as a primer for family loss.—Lisa Egly Lehmuller, St. Patrick's Catholic School, Charlotte, NC
This girl's grandma smells wonderful, cooks amazing doughnuts and knows how to make plants and flowers grow. Sometimes she repeats things, but her granddaughter doesn't mind. Replete with striking images, the soft and atmospheric digitally enhanced watercolors sensitively portray the girl and her family, the garden and Grandma's house. Tragedy quietly strikes when Grandma has to go into the hospital due to an unnamed medical event. She can't recognize her family anymore, and she doesn't even smell right. All too quickly, Grandma dies. Many people offer their memories as Grandma's house is being packed up, and Mama saves some treasures for her daughter, but it's Grandma's gardening gloves the girl wants. Can the girl show Mama what Grandma taught her about gardening so the two can create a garden together? The poetic, sensory and straightforward text strikes a nice balance, and the subtle, comforting ending finishes on a promise for the future. Affecting and realistic, with just the right amount of detail, this is a thoughtful, well-crafted description of a loved one's death, especially appropriate for children undergoing a similar loss. (Picture book. 5-8)