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Book review: Here in the Garden, written and illustrated by Briony Stewart

Posted by Lisa Hill on March 26, 2014


Here in the GardenHere in the Garden is an enchanting new addition to picture books for young children coping with grief and loss.

The book begins in autumn, with the words

The wind rakes through the autumn leaves and I wish that you were here.

A little boy is sitting on a tree stump, watching the leaves swirl about him, and he is alone.  As we turn the pages we see that he lives in an ordinary suburban house with a backyard full of the usual things: a vegie patch, a tyre swing, a table and chairs on the patio, and fruit trees in tubs.  And there’s a rabbit, never mentioned by name, but ever present in this boy’s memories.

As the seasons change he remembers  different things. In the autumn they searched for leaves together, and chatted and hummed as they planted seedlings.  In the winter they watched the garden turn deep and dark and green. They splashed in the puddles and watched the plants push up through the ground.  When daffodils bloom in spring, he remembers tracing the clouds in the sky and searching the garden for mysteries such as cocoons, and in summer there’s the rabbit beside him as he sips a cool drink in the shade.  In these pictures the rabbit is his constant companion, but in the alternating pages he is alone, wishing that the rabbit were there with him.

As the year passes, the garden grows and changes,. and the boy comes to terms with his loss.

The garden’s growing and changing, and, when I wish that you were here…
I go outside and find you …
In the memories, in the garden, in my heart.

Poignant but not sentimental Here in the Garden is a perfect text to use with young children experiencing the loss of a pet.  At my school it will join a collection of texts that we use for the juniors in our Whole School Drug Education program where teaching about resilience is an important component.  Follow-up activities could include innovating on the text using the activities that children share with other pets such as cats and dogs.

You can find out more about Briony Stewart here.

Author: Briony Stewart
Title: Here in the Garden
Publisher: University of Queensland Press, 2014
ISBN: 978 0 7022 5010 1
Source: Review copy courtesy of UQP

Availability

Fishpond: Here in the Garden
Or direct from UQP.

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