The Little Gardener
By Emily Hughes
Published by Flying Eye Books
The little gardener loves his garden and wants nothing more than to bring it to life. Unfortunately, he’s too small, and can’t make it work, as hard as he tries, so he gives up and sleeps; while he sleeps a flower blooms, which inspires a neighbour to work on the garden herself, and, with much hard work, she coaxes it to life.
It’s possible I’m reading too much into Emily Hughes’ The Little Gardener, but to me it seems to work on so many levels it’s kind of astounding.
It’s a love letter to gardens and gardening.
It’s a missive about the power of hard work, persistence and community.
It’s about the frustrations of childhood and being a child.
It’s about love.
And maybe it’s just my mindset, or my own personal history seeping in, but it also works as a story about depression. The titular little gardener struggles to bring his garden to life, and when he can’t he sleeps for a day, a week, a month; when he wakes he finds that the garden, with the help of another, has blossomed into something bright, colourful and beautiful. Suddenly there is life everywhere! Where there were once dying plants there are now myriad flowers… “This too shall pass,” it could say, “and if you need some help, just ask.”
If you know someone struggling with a hard time, gift them a copy of The Little Gardener, and jot an inscription inside the front cover letting them know you’re there for them. It will work wonders.
On a purely artistic level, The Little Gardener is a triumph. It’s a concise story, told beautifully with minimal but well chosen words.
And Emily Hughes is a phenomenal illustrator, filling every page with earth tones and piles of charming details. This is one of those books in which you could easily get lost and happily spend the better part of a day.
Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of Ninja Baby in exchange for an honest review. Read about our review policy HERE.