From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 2—Theo's Poppa's new apartment has no garden, and the windy balcony does not promise to be a good growing spot. But Theo proposes an imaginary garden, and she and her grandfather begin to fill a large blank canvas with a stone wall for the vines to climb on, early springtime flowers, and a visiting robin. When Poppa goes off on a trip, the painting project becomes Theo's; the garden bursts into bloom as she employs her memory, imagination, and a palette of vibrant colors. She even remembers to paint herself into the scene. The lively artwork is rendered in pen and ink and multimedia collage. The warmth of the grandparent/grandchild relationship is evident but, unfortunately, readers never witness Poppa's return and see his joy at Theo's creation. A book that more successfully shows a child as both gardener and healer is Sarah Stewart's The Gardener
(Farrar, 1997). Nonetheless, this is a sweet and visually appealing addition for seasonal and gardening units.—Gloria Koster, West School, New Canaan, CT
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*Starred Review* Theodora loved sitting with her grandfather, Poppa, in the big garden of his old house, and she feels sad that his new apartment has no yard, just a tiny balcony that Poppa says is “too windy for flowers.” Then Theo thinks of a solution: “We could have an imaginary garden!” Poppa rests a broad canvas against a protected wall of the balcony, and after donning gardening boots and hats, he and Theo take up paint and brushes and create a glorious landscape of grass and flowers, beginning with the first buds of the season. When Poppa goes away on holiday, Theo is charged with caring for the garden, and she takes her responsibility seriously, adding more blooms and, in a final gentle image, two chairs, just like the ones she and Poppa enjoyed at his old house. As in Crockett Johnson’s classic Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955), this title, written in appealingly simple, polished language, picks up on a common picture-book subject: the power of a child’s imagination to transform a drawn world into one that feels magically real. Luxbacher’s multimedia collage artwork has an unusual charm, with its winsome, loving characters; interesting perspectives; and riotously colored gardens, which are a moving metaphor for the characters’ fertile imaginations as well as the special relationship they share. As fresh and vibrant as a spring bouquet, this joyous offering will delight children, particularly young artists, throughout the year. Preschool-Grade 1. --Gillian Engberg