A young girl finds a new way to stay connected to her ojiichan, or grandfather.
When Mayumi van Horton was born, her ojiichan in Japan built her a garden. Instead of flowers, “Ojiichan had made the garden out of stones—big ones, little ones and ones in between.” The gently flowing narration continues as watercolors illustrate how Mayumi grows between each summer visit with Ojiichan. Mayumi also gains insight as they care for the garden together. As a toddler she learns “that moss on a rock was a gift of time.” As a school-aged child she learns “that clipping shrubs to look like clouds was the best of all reasons to prune.” But later Mayumi notices that Ojiichan’s house, once full of life and luster, is now “dusty and dull” and the garden “left alone.” Realizing she is powerless to meet Ojiichan’s changing needs, she directs her frustrations on their once fastidiously maintained garden, kicking and “spraying gravel everywhere.” Eventually she finds solace in creatively preserving their beloved project, cementing their bond despite the impending transition. Simms’ paintings capture the spirit of the quiet yet emotionally layered text, providing colorful patterns atop simple shapes and compositions. The result is an understated story that delivers a powerful message of love. Mayumi is biracial, with a white father and Japanese mother.
Like a garden, this meticulously composed work will bring readers serenity and joy. (Picture book. 4-8)