Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Gardener

While walking Biscuit the other night one of my neighbors called me over and handed me a book which she said she thought I would enjoy. She had bought the book for her six year old daughter. One look at the title explained why she thought I might enjoy it: it was Sarah Stewart’s The Gardener, and that’s one of David Small’s illustrations from the book shown above.
The eponymous gardener is little Lydia Grace Finch who is growing up in the Great Depression. In a time of family crisis her family sends her off to live for a while with her Uncle Jim who runs a bakery a train ride away. Lydia Grace’s grandmother sends her off with packets of flower seeds: cosmos, zinnia and marigold.
Now that I’ve read the book I realize why my neighbor knew I would enjoy it. I’ve often told her how this Uncle Jim spent hours long decades ago with his niece sharing the joys of gardens, plants, insects and the outdoor life – and how those joyous days were never forgotten by her and are now being shared with her son. Not only can this Uncle Jim take some credit for his niece’s love of gardening, but he’s a baker, too.  
What my neighbor did not know is that my mom is a child of the depression, and she experienced something very like what Lydia Grace experienced: she was farmed out to care for her arthritic grandmother when she was about ten years old.
So for me the book was a sweetly nostalgic trip.
I returned the book tonight, but not before going up to my community garden plot and picking a little bouquet of cosmos, zinnias and marigolds for the little girl whose book I had borrowed.
By the way, and this is for those of you who know the book, this Uncle Jim smiles.
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart,  illustrated delightfully by David Small,  published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux.


ChrisU said...

Jim, this is the oddest thing. Karen came home yesterday from teaching a third grade class, she substitutes when not gardening, and described a book the teacher had left her to read to the class. Guess what book? Of course the teacher chose the book for Karen for the same reason your neighbor gave it to you. Sometimes it seems to me that there is a level or organization in the world that I'm not getting...

McWort said...

Ah, but then, Chris, you have a Karen to get it for you...