Isabella's Garden

illus. by Rebecca Cool. unpaged. Candlewick. 2012. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-6016-1. LC 2010039183.
PreS-Gr 2—In this cumulative poem à la "The House That Jack Built," Isabella plants a garden. Her friends, wide-eyed children standing with their bare feet in the dark soil, help her water and tend it as the sun shines, the rain falls, and the seeds become shoots seeking the sun. They fly kites as Isabella's buttercups "waltz with the wind," and a chick in a thistledown vest hatches from its nest in an apple tree. The children climb the tree "leafy and appled/that speckles the garden with shade, deep and dappled…." The season changes, the leaves turn crimson, and a mantis "prays to the moon/that winter comes never or not quite so soon…." On a splendid pale blue spread, a fanciful Jack Frost appears, "encrusting the garden with glisten and glimmer." Then "all that remains is the well-feathered nest/that was built by the bird with the scarlet breast/and a handful of seeds for the wild wind to blow/Enough, just enough, for a garden to grow." Bright, sumptuous mixed-media spreads have a folk-art quality, while the simplicity of the artwork mirrors the lyrical text. The awe, mystery, and beauty of the changing seasons as experienced by the children make this a must-have book to welcome spring.—Mary Jean Smith, formerly at Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN
"These are the seeds that sleep in the soil, all dark and deep, in Isabella's garden." Isabella's garden starts with a simple seed in the ground, but as the rain comes and the seeds grow, they nourish a whole community and ecosystem. Primitive mixed-media illustrations in rich, saturated colors contribute a sense of timelessness to Millard's "House That Jack Built"–inspired verse.

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