Author/Illustrator: Michael Foreman
Age Group: 4-8
Synopsis: A boy finds a unexpected seed growing in some debris and helps it thrive against all odds.
The Low Down:
The idea of hope is such a strange concept to explain to children. The difficulty lies in the fact that it’s not actually tangible and that even for adults it can feel like a wisp enchanting you while it dances around your hand but darting away as you reach to grasp it. Michael Foreman does a great job in A Child’s Garden of bringing this idea to life while sending the message to kids that hope is not confined to one person or set of people but something that we all can access.
The story focuses on a small boy who finds a young plant determinedly growing in the rumble near his home. The boy nurtures and cares for it and soon it becomes strong and healthy. It encourages happiness among the people who live around him and entangles itself in the barbed wire fence that separates him from the people across the way. In the wake of this triumph the plant is torn down and thrown into a ditch on the other side of the fence so that the boy can’t help it. However, here is where Foreman brings in one of the biggest messages. The vine not only survives but is nourished by a girl living on the other side of the fence. Its seeds and roots have gone deep and soon other small plants grow too. All of the seedlings are drawn to the fence but the boy is no longer afraid that the plant will be hurt because he know that even if it is torn down again, it will never really die. The text is simple, and powerful, allowing the reader to fill in the rest of the story as they will but providing enough direction not to stray from the overall meaning.
It’s a strong and complex message that is expertly delivered to young readers. Bug is still too young for this concept but we’ve storywalked through the book and discussed the feelings of those illustrated. Foreman has employed a very restrained use of color within the pages allowing young readers to note the importance of the plant and the beauty it brings. Foreman draws a world that is made from rubble and wouldn’t be out of place in a middle eastern nation. This too allows for another discussion about what state people live in and where. The plant itself seems to yearn to grow on the fence. It reaches for it no matter where it is planted. It’s as if it wants to beautify such a horrible symbol of division.
The topics in this book are not simple or easy but they are fundamental in how they encourage readers of all ages to remember that when we have nothing else that there is always hope and that cannot ever be completely destroyed.
- Be ready for a difficult discussion afterwords.
- If you need tips on storywalking check them out here.
I need more!
Michael Foreman has more books than I even realized and has won the Kate Greenway award for both War Game and War Boy. He writes his own stories and also pairs with other authors. For a more complete list check out his Amazon page at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Foreman/e/B000AP9L5K
Add to my library:
UK Amazon: A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope
US Amazon: A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope