Grimloch Lane is a gray place where individuals trudge along wrapped in their own thoughts, until a man carrying a ladder and tools enters their sphere.
Clad in almost-gray green—and seemingly unaware of the similarly attired boy drawing a feathered creature in the dirt—he proceeds to a nearby tree. After the moonlit title page, morning breaks with narration that accompanies this child now gazing in wonder from the orphanage window. A gigantic, familiar owl has been formed from the tree’s foliage. Ensuing evenings yield ever more amazing creatures; color creeps into the scenes as neighbors gather in admiration and spruce up their dilapidated homes. The Fan brothers contrast creamy, uncluttered pages of daytime community life with magical forest-green evenings that culminate in an invitation to help. The pair’s resulting leafy menagerie in the park is rendered even more evocative when the page turn reveals the blazing deciduous trees dropping their sculpted shapes. But no matter—the neighborhood has been changed permanently, as has the boy. The Night Gardener is Asian, the child pale-skinned, the neighborhood warmly multicultural. The final double-page spread depicting the young man shaping his own playful topiary is an uplifting testament to the effect that a caring adult can have on a lonely child. An economic text punctuated with commas, questions, and ellipses leads readers forward; highly textured graphite and deepening, digitally colored compositions surprise and delight.
Visual pleasure abounds. (Picture book. 4-7)