They are nearly fifty years old. They were planted by my mother forty-eight years ago. Perhaps she brought them from my parent's old home to their new one built in 1968. Since then they have been lovingly moved three times. Where I go my mother's peony bushes go. Each time they are placed in a new garden, another plant fills their former space. Gardens grow in more ways than are easily recognized.
Each person who tends flowers and vegetables in gardens of varying sizes leaves behind the stories associated with each plant. The forever garden (Schwartz & Wade Books, May 2, 2017) written by Laurel Snyder with illustrations by Samantha Cotterill asks us to think about what we sow, not only in gardens. It's a loving and charming tribute to people of all ages who care for everything in their lives.
In sunshine and shower, in darkness and wind,
Honey tends her garden...
Honey's knees are always muddy.
Whatever the weather and whatever the time of year, Honey looks after her garden. She knows what it needs and takes great joy in its stages.
Honey sings to the kale.
A neighbor girl observes this her curiosity increasing. When sent to Honey's for eggs from her chickens, the child marvels at the colors of the shells and their warmth, fresh from the nest. Honey brings bunches of bounty from her garden when visiting their home for Friday night dinners.
Sometimes the nights are mild enough Honey enjoys dinner in her garden. For dessert the little girl joins her eating cookies and watching the fireflies. One day, a single sign, brings change for the girl and Honey.
In conservations both the girl and Honey reveal the affection they have for each other. They will be missed. The little girl also comes to know the value of adding something or leaving something behind, a visible (not always on the outside) reminder of you having been part of memory making at a particular place. In this way a tradition can continue; a garden can last forever.
Readers will find themselves as deeply connected to Honey as is the little girl through her first person narrative as written by Laurel Snyder. The inclusion of sounds, Honey's spoken phrases and their chats create a warm and intimate story. Readers will come to believe the best kind of friendships can bind people together regardless of their ages. Here is a sample passage.
Each Friday night I ask Honey to dinner.
She brings bouquets of funny things.
raspberries on a prickle branch.
Nothing matches, but everything fits.
And the table smells like a meadow.
At first glance readers can tell there is a deep fondness between the two pictured characters. Their facial expressions and body gestures are evidence of this fact. The soft textures and color choices radiate tenderness and the belief in continual growth; flowers and vegetables are being planted, enjoyed and harvested. To the left, on the back of the matching dust jacket and book case, the girl is seated on the fence between their two properties, holding a tiny carrot given to her by Honey who is standing with a basket full of lettuce. A striped cat watches.
Rendered in pen-and-ink on watercolor paper and colored digitally by Samantha Cotterill the illustrations are as brimming with details as Honey's garden is full of vegetables and flowers. Some of them cover two pages, others single pages and some are small and grouped together on one page. Most of the smaller images are circular; in keeping with the forever theme of the book, no beginning and no ending.
One of my many favorite pictures is of Honey and the neighbor girl lying on their backs on a quilt in Honey's garden at night. Fireflies are blinking around them. A string of decorative lights is hanging along the fence. Pots of flowers are placed around them. A pitcher of water, glasses and a plate of cookies are on the quilt. The cat is playfully reaching for a firefly. You can almost hear the crickets chirping as the child quietly talks and points.
This title, The forever garden, written by Laurel Snyder with illustrations by Samantha Cotterill is sure to be a classic with a timeless theme of making a beneficial and lasting impression wherever you are and wherever you go. Readers can find joy in the diverse characters and their multi-generational relationships. The Author's Note on the verso opposite the title page is a must read; explaining the inspiration for this story. I highly recommend this title for use with other books on friendship and gardening.
To learn more about Laurel Snyder and Samantha Cotterill please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites. Samantha Cotterill can be found on Instagram. If you go to Flickr for the publisher you can view more illustrations.