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Thursday, July 20, 2017

the forever garden, by Laurel Snyder and Samantha Cotterill. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2017. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Sometimes Mom sends me to Honey for an egg to bake with. Honey's eggs are pink and green. Smooth and speckled. The chickens get mad. They scatter. Cluck! "Presto!" says Honey as she slips an egg into my hand. The egg is warm. Each Friday night, I ask Honey to dinner. She brings bouquets ... "

Honey is the consummate gardener, neighbor and friend. Laurel lives next door. Honey works tirelessly in her garden. Laurel and her mother reaps many of its benefits. Along the way, Laurel learns as much about friendship as she does about tending the plants in a garden.

If it's sunny, Laurel visits. If it's rainy, she watches from her window. Often, in the evening, she shares a cookie with Honey on a blanket as they gaze at the stars. Theirs is a mutual admiration society. When a FOR SALE sign goes up at Honey's house, Laurel is surprised and dismayed. She wants things to remain the same. Honey has no choice; her mother is sick and needs her help. Still, Laurel has a warning.

"You know there might be wasps where you're
moving to," I warn her. "Or tornadoes."

Honey turns to me and smiles. "I'll miss you, too," she says.
I touch a strawberry leaf, dark and glossy. It trembles."

And Laurel has another lesson to learn. When she asks why Honey is planting something she will not be there to enjoy, Honey explains that gardens can be there forever if someone takes the time to care for them. Just as she enjoyed the grapes a previous owner planted, the new neighbors will have strawberries to eat when summer rolls around next year. It is a lovely thought.

When new neighbors move in, with four tiny tots, Laurel is more than happy to share what she has learned under Honey's tutelage. The 'forever garden' lives on!

Samantha Cotterill uses pen and ink for images that are then colored digitally to illustrate this winning and winsome tale. Young readers will delight in its many wonderful details and are sure to have much to discuss as the story is shared. From the opening idyllic scene revealing Honey's full backyard with its well, chickens, raised beds, cat dozing on the back porch, and a new bed just waiting to be planted, to the final image showing a bed of kale as seen through Laurel's bedroom window and Honey's gardening hat perched on the bedpost, her visual story hums with life and love.

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