Grandmother Thorn has spent years perfecting her beloved garden, but a new plant, a gift from a friend, threatens its harmony.
Grandmother Thorn lives alone in Shizuka Village, apparently in Japan. Every day she meticulously cares for her garden and its pebbled paths, shunning visitors and shooing birds away from her trees. Neighbors fear her, but she always shows kindness to her old friend, Ojiisan, despite the fact that his crooked foot disrupts her precious paths. When a merchant brings an unusual type of berry to market, Ojiisan pays the merchant to take some to Grandmother Thorn. The merchant unwisely picks one perfect flower. Enraged, Grandmother Thorn chases him away and he drops the berries—one of which soon sprouts into a renegade plant. Her intense anger at this makes her so sick she must stay at the home of her niece until the following spring. When Ojiisan goes to walk her home, he gives her a box of berries. They are delicious—the fruit of the persistent weed. Grandmother Thorn understands that she has finally found something as stubborn as herself. Although Howes’ protagonist learns a good lesson, she is not particularly likable to that point, and the stern faces of Hahn’s characters could be disconcerting to the book’s young audience. Her pattern-filled, hand-collage illustrations incorporate fabric, wood, and paint, their thick outlines and stable compositions imparting a sense of peace to Grandmother Thorn’s garden.
Lovely—but it requires patience, just like its protagonist. (Picture book. 5-8)