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Book Review: One Small Garden

Book Review
One Small Garden by Barbara Nichol, illustrated by Barry Moser (Tundra Books, 2001).
Ages 9 and up.

We're a little late getting our first seeds planted this year, so I went looking for a children's gardening book to get us in the mood. Instead of the how-to I intended to buy, I came home with this gem.

Imagine an aunt who tells stories about the most mundane things - a raccoon rambling along a path at dusk. Now imagine your aunt turns out to be Barbara Nichol, and when she talks, the raccoon story doesn't sound mundane; it sounds wondrous.

Nichol's vignettes, mostly about a single garden space in Toronto, interweave the strange and ordinary, sprinkling botany and zoology throughout in a way that is never pedantic. In each chapter, Nichols is going along telling a story when she pauses in the narrative, saying, "Now, here's an interesting thing about trees." And then she tells you and you think, "Well, that is interesting," even if you knew it already.

I'm not sure how many kids will be able to see past the lack of action and characters to appreciate the beauty of the writing, at least on their own. One Small Garden might make a good fireside read-aloud on cool spring nights, or a bedtime book for kids who are just about to decide they're too old for such things. Certainly worth a try.




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