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The intense sensory pleasure of a grandparent’s garden is among many people’s earliest memories. And the loss of a garden, like Eden, is one of the most powerful human stories. Nonetheless, grandparents often have to move into apartments, the garden gets left behind, and what are we to do? Poppa and his granddaughter Theo come up with an excellent solution in this engaging picture book by Toronto author Andrew Larsen, aided by the exuberant pictures of fellow Torontonian Irene Luxbacher. Leaving the tree-and-flower-filled garden of his old house for an apartment balcony that is too windy for flowers, and rejecting the notion of plastic flowers, Poppa is bereft – at least until Theo’s suggestion of an imaginary garden gives him an idea. On a large piece of canvas set out on the balcony, he and Theo paint a lovely garden, with wall, soil, vines, birds, bulbs, and plants that change with the seasons. At first, Theo works under Poppa’s tutelage, learning to mix paints and add the garden elements, but when he goes away and leaves her in charge, she manages to move the plants into the next season, and to paint in a couple of wooden chairs so she and Poppa can eventually – in their imagination, at least – sit and enjoy their handiwork. The Imaginary Garden affirms both a warm bond between grandparent and child and the transformative power of the creative imagination. The interaction between Poppa and Theo is skillfully sketched: Poppa can take an idea from Theo (after gently dismissing a couple of others) and build upon it, eventually giving her the tools to work her own magic. In the early pictures, the warm colours of their creations contrast with the black and white of the bare balcony, but their vitality soon spreads over the whole page as the garden blooms.
As fresh and vibrant as a spring bouquet, this joyous offering will delight children, particularly young artists, throughout the year.
... sweet and visually appealing ...
More than the gardening or even the flowers, the dance of imagination between grandfather and grandchild is sweetly filigreed across the pages.
The Imaginary Garden affirms both a warm bond between grandparent and child and the transformative power of the creative imagination.