This attractive picture book for the very young from accomplished illustrator and debut author Gillingham explores a thoughtful analogy between gardening and friendship.
The parallels between growing things and making new friends are illustrated with simple instructions, matched with Gillingham’s pastel-shaded woodcut-and-collaged illustrations. Just like seeds and plants, friendships need to be sown, tended and cultivated. “A friend needs water… / warm sunshine… // and space to bloom.” It is a two-way process: “To grow a friend, talk / and listen”; “Good friends stand by each other in rain / or shine.” With friendships, as with flowers, things can go wrong: “Sometimes a friend bugs you.” (Bugs literally buzz around their heads on a page where the friends are wrestling for control of a potted plant.) But “[t]o grow a friend, / chase the bugs away together!” The girl finds a solution to their argument by giving the boy a ride in a wheelbarrow. A subtly diverse selection of kids and adults are portrayed enjoying one another’s company and working together to cultivate their gardens. Children, flowers, birds, trees and seasons are skillfully illustrated using multicolored patterns and shapes that will have considerable visual appeal for preschoolers.
The slightly didactic message of tolerance and inclusiveness is made palatable by the gardening analogy, and this book will encourage young friendships to bloom. (Picture book. 2-4)