A Big Garden

This large-format picturebook offers a visual extravaganza that takes the reader through a gardening year, incorporating images of what is growing or blooming.

However, it is not a standard non-fiction guide, but a poetic exploration. The text is both fanciful and factual, so this is a book to share and discuss. For example, the entry for December states ‘Legend says… [Snow] … was invented just to amuse children’ and then talks about it ‘[bringing] out the youngster who remains within us’, suggesting it addresses an adult reader, as well as children. To stay with the same month, there is also information about what vernalisation is, and the text emphasises waiting for new growth to emerge.

The images – line drawings with a limited but varied colour range – are similarly a mixture of fantastical and realistic, combined with an element of ‘Where’s Wally?’ There are a huge number of details and a few prompt questions to encourage exploration. For instance, December asks the reader to look for Red Riding Hood and find a winter animal in hiding.

In addition, every page is filled with tiny, faceless gardeners. The gardener is always male, which seems limiting. They are involved in a number of activities, some of them related to the garden, others more surreal. In June, for instance, some play tennis beside a giant raspberry. This too adds to the detail to explore.