The two books that I’m going to review today are from the group of books recommended by our local children’s librarian, Jo. These two really don’t have much in common other than they both have animals as a theme. But I really wanted to share them with you since I found them to be delightful and entertaining. If you check them out from your local library I know that you and your child(ren) will enjoy them as much as I did.
The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers
This is a story about a little boy named William, who lived in the Grimloch Orphanage, and how he discovered the “Night Gardener” who created amazing topiaries from the trees in town. One day William wakes up to find a commotion down the street. He joins the townspeople to discover that a tree has been trimmed into a beautiful owl. The following day they discover another tree has been turned into a cat. In the days that follow more trees in the town of Grimloch have been transformed into magnificent creatures by the Night Gardener. One evening William spots a strange man and follows him, only to find that he is indeed the Night Gardener. He spends the night helping to create beautiful animals from the trees in the park. He falls asleep under a tree and when he awakens he discovers a pair of trimming shears left for him by the gardener, and the town transformed by the beauty of the sculptures.
What I love best about this book is the illustrations. In the beginning of the book the drawings have very little color, giving it a rather gloomy feeling. With each topiary that is discovered the pages become more colorful and the people of the town become more animated and excited. Towards the end of the book the Fan brothers take the readers through the seasons, and we see the trees change colors and lose leaves, but when the following summer arrives we see that the town has changed and is now full of beautiful colors and happy people. This is a great book to encourage prediction with children, encouraging them to think about what animals they think the Night Gardener will create next.
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog, written by Dev Petty and illustrated by Mike Boldt
This is a delightful book about a frog who wants to be anything but a frog. He tells his dad that he wants to be a rabbit, but he can’t since he doesn’t have long ears. He wants to be a pig, but he can’t because he can’t eat garbage. He can’t be an owl because he doesn’t have wings, can’t turn his head all the way around and he isn’t wise. This goes on and on until a wolf happens by who convinces the frog that he should be glad he’s a frog, because that’s the one animal that the wolf won’t eat. Of course, the frog sees the sense in this and is then very happy that he is a frog.
I like this book because of the simplicity of the message that we need to be happy with who we are. This is a message that is never too early to start instilling in children, especially in this day and age where there is so much advertising telling us that we are not good enough. The illustrations are simple but fun, and made me smile from the first page on. Parents can expound on the story by asking their child(ren) to think of other animals that the frog would want to be, and why he couldn’t be that animal. This is a great way to encourage abstract thinking and develop a sense of cause and effect, which are both excellent strategies for developing good readers.
Kate Glinsmann (she/her) was an owner-partner of BabyNames.com, a lifelong educator with a masters degree in Education. For over 30 years, she worked with preschoolers with special needs, kindergartners, and English language learners.
In her spare time, Kate was a stained glass artist, who built her own studio and gave classes to her local community. Kate was a tireless advocate of those in need, particularly children, mothers and refugees. Kate passed away in December of 2019.