In the Garden
Sitting down with author-illustrator Emma Giuliani’s oversized picture book In the Garden is, from the outset, a giant welcome into the world of gardening. With simple yet elegant graphic illustrations, Giuliani engages the child gardener with colorful imagery and rich information about how this world can be a nurturing and poetic experience throughout the year.
Presented in silhouette, sister and brother, Plum and Robin (aptly named as they reflect what one would find in a garden), take the reader on a tour of their garden as they lovingly and caringly share information about all there is to see and do! And the tour includes sweet teaching moments, “A seed is a little like an egg. It’s a future baby plant. It’s alive.” Flaps add to an interactive experience, offering fun facts about plants and tips about dealing with pesky pests.
Who knew that the odor of spoiled milk keeps rabbits away, that Nasturtiums attract aphids and keep them away from other plants, spreading ash wood around strawberries keeps slugs and snails away, and that you could make aphid repelllent using poisonous rhubarb leaves? Did you know that dragonflies are rare, threatened by pollution, but their presence is a sign of a healthy garden?
As the book travels the year from winter through to the following winter, each season brings its own set of garden chores: covering soil with compost and mulch; re-potting; turning the soil to aerate it; watering the thirsty plants with collected rainwater; making cuttings; harvest time; making a “five-star hotel for insects” using pine cones, wood segments, branches, and sunshine; putting plants in the greenhouse for the winter; and leaving seeds for wintering birds. The reader is also introduced to the tools that are needed to accomplish these chores: a pitchfork, a rake, a shovel, pruning shears, and a watering can.
In the Garden shows the child gardener the importance of pollination and how all pollinators (especially bees) help flowers turn into fruit that we eat: squash, hazelnuts, pear, cherry, beets, beans, and currants. Giuliani also shares that gardening is also a sensory experience, “Have you noticed how delicious tomatoes taste when you’ve patiently grown them yourself?” and “In the hedge, at the bottom of the garden, grows a blackberry bush. The smell of jam is so delicious that you will want to brave the thorns to pick wild blackberries.”
Filled with inspiration and anticipation, In the Garden satisfies the interests of all gardeners: What does the inside a bud, seed, flower, or pod look like? And what will spring bring?: flowers and leaves that were protected against the harshness of winter, hidden strawberries, ladybugs, earthworms, hedgehogs (a gardener’s helper) and all kinds of birds! The story ends as it begins, showing how the cycle repeats. With tools put away, the child reader is left with the gentle reminder, “Like all living things, the garden needs its rest.”