First up- an apology- I inadvertently reviewed an out of print book yesterday. It shouldn't be out of print but there you go; blink and it happens. Whilst this blog is intended really only to stimulate my own brain into considering what works and why in a Good Children's Book and not to sell them to others, I can appreciate that it would be annoying if you did want it. As I've shown, I have no compunction at all about reviewing the old but in the future I'll try and make sure they are the available where possible. In the mean time- try your library for big blue whale fun.
So an oldie but a goodie but also an in-the-shoppie today in the form of 'Eddie's Garden and how to make things grow' by Sarah Garland. It may be fairly obvious why this entered our house in the first place but I don't think it's just because he shares the hero's name that my own Eddie loves this.
This is a straightforward, naturalistic and gentle book; Eddie, helped by his little sister Lily and his (apparently single) Mum decides to plant a new vegetable garden. The book takes us through the process with the seasons from digging and seed choosing, to sowing, to planting out, to nurture (and the all-important slug protection), to harvest. It ends with the cooking of that (impressive) harvest and a picnic lunch outside with their Grandad. There's a good amount of information buried in the story about natural cycles, what make plants' grow and the importance of insects and birds in a garden too. This is definitely an organic plot, and Bill's favourite part of the story is when Eddie goes on a nighttime mission in his pyjamas to remove slugs by torchlight. At the end of the book there's also an appendix with much more detailed instructions about how to plan and grow a child friendly garden. It's a perfectly good first gardener's reference text.
'"What makes plants grow?" asked Eddie.
"What makes you grow?" asked Mum.
"Food," said Eddie.
"Drink for me," said Lily.
"That's just what plants like,"said Mum. "Food from the earth, rain to drink, air to breathe and sun for light and warmth."'
My real pleasure in this book and it's strength I think is in the warmth and humour of the family relationships displayed both in the writing and in Sarah Garland's lovely illustrations. Just like in Shirley Hughes's families; there is a real respect shown for children's opinions and independence of thought. It's Eddie's garden and Eddie's project- his mum just helps him facilitate it. She even takes Lily's worm eating habit calmly; an excellent role model for the possibly less sanguine mother reading it.
I do experience a certain frisson of garden envy too I must admit. Our own attempts at vegetable growing have been pretty woeful in comparison to Eddie's apparently easy bounty. I think it's the fatal combination of Organic and Lazy that is our downfall. I am nowhere near dedicated enough in the art of midnight slug removal and strangely Bill and Eddie seem to prefer reading about it to carrying it through themselves. They'd probably do it for money. Still, they are very keen waterers, we've had modest sunflower success and you never know maybe 2012 will, finally, be our year of the coveted bean den.
There are two other 'Eddie' books; 'Eddie's Kitchen and how to make good things to eat' which takes a similar approach to cooking with Eddie and Lily making bread, spaghetti in sauce, salad and carrot and orange cake (complete with recipes at the back) and 'Eddie's Toolbox and how to make and mend things'. In this newest volume, those who share my pleasure in back story extrapolation will be pleased to know that a dishy single Dad moves in next door to Eddie and proves Very Handy about the house...(More prosaically it also shows you how to make a bird feeder from scratch.)