From School Library Journal
Gr 1-3–“Grandma has a way with flowers,” reports the young narrator of this sweet tribute to intergenerational relationships and the circle of life. Readers know right away all the important things about the child's grandmother: the way she smells, the kind of tea she pours, her green thumb, and that she sometimes repeats things. This one characteristic foreshadows the woman's decline in health. When she is hospitalized and later dies, readers are as accepting of this last stage of life as is her granddaughter, who says, “Everything dies one day. I know that.” Taking Grandma's gardening gloves as a keepsake, she promises to teach her own mother what she has learned about gardening, closing the circle of birth, death, and renewal. Castellucci's narrative details give voice to the perspicacity of a sensitive child–the smells, gestures, and alterations of experience that are noticed but rarely articulated. Denos's watercolor, pencil, and digital collage illustrations are bright and charming. Her depictions of the interactions of the winsome main character and her family will evoke recognition in readers and add to the story's usefulness as a primer for family loss.Lisa Egly Lehmuller, St. Patrick's Catholic School, Charlotte, NC
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Graphic novelist and YA author Castellucci offers younger audiences this picture book about a girl, her grandmother, and their shared love of gardening. Grandma and the girl enjoy puttering in the flowers and dirt, followed by tea, dessert, and good conversation. Then Grandma is hospitalized and no longer recognizes her family; still, she remembers how to tend the plants in her room, and they thrive. After Grandma’s death, the girl treasures her gardening gloves and promises to help her mother develop her own green thumb. Denos’ watercolor, pencil, and digital-collage artwork employs an earth-toned palette and conveys the story’s emotional themes through sensitive facial expressions. Although the text is brief and to the point, Castellucci includes many descriptive touches: Grandma “scolds” her succulents; and she smells of earth, coffee, hairspray, and perfume. This is a good choice for one-on-one sharing; pair with Tomie dePaola’s Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs (1998) or Deborah Hopkinson’s Bluebird Summer (2001). Grades K-3. --Kay Weisman