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The Gardener

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  6,682 ratings  ·  555 reviews
By the author-and-illustrator team of the bestselling The Library

Lydia Grace Finch brings a suitcase full of seeds to the big gray city, where she goes to stay with her Uncle Jim, a cantankerous baker. There she initiates a gradual transformation, bit by bit brightening the shop and bringing smiles to customers' faces with the flowers she grows. But it is in a secret place
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published August 30th 1997 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 4.32  · 
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 ·  6,682 ratings  ·  555 reviews

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I love this little book! This book made my heart sing.

This is about a gardener. She is about 8 or so. I’m not as big a gardener as Lydia Grace is, but I do love gardens and plants. This is set during the depression of the 30s. A girl has to go live with her uncle in the big city when her parents both lose their jobs. Lydia Grace was a gardener with her grandmother.

The story is completely told through letters Lydia Grace sends to the people in her life. It’s like Dear Mr. Crenshaw and I love tha
Now with regard to Sarah Stewart's The Gardener, I indeed adore Lydia Grace Finch as a character, as main protagonist, as well as her 1930's (and always supplied with a date) letters to her family back "home" (sweet and descriptive little epistles that truly and glowingly show an authentic feeling sense of time and place, including her impressions of her new urban life, and indeed of having to get used to new surroundings, even if Lydia's move to the city to stay with her uncle is temporary and ...more
Lisa Vegan
May 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of beautiful picture books & cats & historical fiction stories & gardening & baking
I loved this team’s book The Library and so I wanted to read this book too. This is another gem of a book from this pair, as utterly charming as the other book. I will definitely make a point to read all of Stewart-Small created books.

The illustrations are completely delightful; I just loved them. They would make the book sing all on their own, even without the story.

The story is told via Lydia Grace’s letters, first to her uncle, then back home to her parents and grandmother, and they made me f
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-books
I loved this story! Sarah Stewart & David Small did an amazing job communicating the story line from before the story began until after the story was over, every page is telling the story!

Set in the 1930's Depression era, we meet a young girl, Lydia Grace Finch, who lives with her Mother, Father & Grandmother in a rural town. Lydia loves gardening - the beauty of her garden is her escape and way of dealing with the difficulties of life around her. With both of her parents being out of work, she
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kathryn by: Chandra, thank you!
Another winner from the husband-wife team of Stewart and Small. The illustrations in this one are what really captivated me, but I appreciated all the letters, too (the story is told entirely of letters) and found it at once a poignant and marvelously hopeful sort of story. It takes place during the depression and shows the all-too-common story of a young girl being sent to stay with distant relatives because the parents cannot afford to keep her with father out of work. Her uncle, a baker, neve ...more
Robert Davis
**** Caldecott Honor (1998) ****

This is one of the most wonderful and heart-warming picture books I have ever read. Absolutely splendid. You cannot help but get a little misty eyed at the beauty and love brought by one little girl into the lives and the world around her. This may be the best picture book I've seen in recent memory.
I love to garden. Weeds. Dirt. Seeds. Birds on the fence. Neighbors walking by and saying hello. I am in my element. So when I discovered THE GARDENER I had to read the book.

It is a lovely children's story that takes place during the Depression. Lydia Grace Finch's parents and grandmother are having a tough go so they send her to the city to live with her Uncle Jim. He is a baker but he never smiles.

Lydia Grace more than makes up for his solemnness. Soon flowers and vegetables are growing every
Inspiring and beautiful. I love classic children's books like this.
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Young Gardeners & Garden Lovers
Author Sarah Stewart and illustrator David Small - the same team behind such picture-books as The Library , The Friend and The Journey - turn to the Great Depression in this lovely tale of Lydia Grace Finch, a young girl sent to live with her Uncle Jim in the city when her father loses his job, and her mother is unable to take in much work as a dress-maker. Helping out in Uncle Jim's bakery, and befriending his two assistants, Ed and Emma Beech, Lydia Grace finds herself longing for t ...more
L12_luisespinoza Espinoza
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This is a charming, touching story set in the era of the Great Depression. It tells of a little girl named Lydia Grace who is probably between 8-12 yrs old (the book does not specify her age). She lives out in the country with her Grandma, Papa, and Mama and loves to work in the garden with her Grandma. One day, she is told by her Grandma that she will be moving to the city (NYC)to live with her Uncle Jim and work in his bakery to help her family financially and as stated in the book, "until thi ...more
Jessica Hanley
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This magical story captivated my attention from the first page. Lydia Grace is sent to live with ther uncle during the Great Depression, and her story is told through a series of letters written home. Her missions are to make her grouchy uncle smile, as well as nurture her growing green thumb by creating a rooftop garden. The use of letters are a narrative is quite attention getting and helps to give insight into her private thoughts as well. Lydia Grace's cheerful and confident spirit in tumult ...more
Sarah-Rae Bugayong
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
I adored The Gardener, it is a magnificent book that can teach children to always preserve. I loved Lydia Grace's determination that pushed her to plant a garden and make her Uncle Jim smile. I also admired her patience, she seemed to have so much for a young child. Gardening takes a lot of time, and it was so admirable to see how hard she worked on that roof garden, her love for plants and her family really made me smile.
The pictures in this book are phenomenal as well. I loved how Small put s
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Gardener is both historical fiction and a concept book for writing letters. Set during the Great Depression, young Lydia Grace writes home to her Mama, Papa, and Grandma from the city where she is staying with her Uncle Jim while her parents sort things out in the country. Lydia Grace helps out at her Uncle Jim's bakery, goes to school, and secretly gardens on the roof of the building. Her green thumb becomes well-known, but none more than those closest to her.

There are many good picture bo
I read this once and promptly turned to the beginning and read it again, more slowly with more attention to the details. The text is sparse but when combined with the art, the story deepens and the reader gets a better sense of time, place, and the personalities of the main characters (especially Uncle Jim). The young girl is upbeat, caring, and has a passion that keeps her busy and occupies her thoughts. (I want all of the kids to have interests beyond electronics, so I'm always on the lookout ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think I enjoyed this even more than I did The Library. Just lovely. I especially loved the last illustration after the text was over - a tear came to my eye just as one did to Emma's.

Btw, I really appreciate that Ed and Emma are what would have been called then 'Negro.' It's so nice to see that not everyone was hatefully racist, even back then.

edit - I shared this with my family (all adult males) before returning it to the library, and they liked it too.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Gardener is written in an epistle format through charming letters penned by a young girl named Lydia Grace. Set during the Great Depression, in the years 1935 and 1936, Lydia Grace, who loves gardening, is sent away from home to live in the city, with her Uncle, a baker. The husband and wife team, who wrote and illustrated this book together, created a wonderful story that will bring a warm smile to your face.
Caldecott Honor: 1998
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
A gorgeous tale of an enthusiastic and loving young girl who experiences hardship at a very young age, but handles it with grace and a sunny disposition that brings joy to the people in her life.

The way she transforms her little spot in the city (and indeed, her Uncle's Bakery) is both uplifting and beautiful. The illustrations are fantastic and make you want to go out and plant a garden. A rare 5 star rating. We absolutely loved this book.

This book was selected as one of the books for the May
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
During the Great Depression, young Lydia Grace is sent to stay with her uncle in the big city until her father finds a job. She helps out in the bakery, and plants flowers and vegetables wherever she can. Her letters home tell of her gardening efforts, and her hopes to put a smile on her uncle's face. A lovely story, with beautiful pictures by David Small. And, it all ends with a great big "Awww!"

Bloom where you're planted!
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing

A sweet book about a young girl who loves to garden set during the Depression. She shares her joy of gardening with those around her and is able to transform her uncle’s bakery into a cheery place teeming with plants. The artwork was beautiful and I enjoyed the epistolary style.
Aug 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-books
I loved everything about this book. The illustrations are wonderful - the more I looked the more I saw. The story of Lydia Grace is one of courage, enthusiasm and love of her family, gardening and her Uncle Jim. Lots to be learned from this story.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
What an utter charmer of a picture book! Sarah Stewart's old-fashioned epistolary story is brought to life in David Small's radiant watercolors. A real keeper.
Alex  Baugh
Behind many of those nondescript smaller apartment buildings in NYC that are now fast disappearing is a real surprise. The two back ground floor apartments have really nice sized garden out their back door. A friend of mine has her office in one of those buildings on the Upper East Side, and this weekend, I spent some time going to garden centers in Connecticut and helping her pick out some new plants for her backyard garden.

When I got home, I pulled out my copy of The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
I hadn't realized that David Small won a Caldecott Honor in addition to his Caldecott Medal for So You Want to be President? I always love his illustrations, and The Gardener is no exception. As in all good picture books, the illustrations in this tell as much of the story as the text. Make sure you notice all of the illustrations, even those at the beginning and end that don't have accompanying text.

The story is told in letters written by Lydia Grace Finch to family members – first to her Uncl
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Virginia by: Interactive Read Alouds
The Gardener is the story of Lydia Grace, a girl who leaves her parents and grandmother to go live with her uncle in the city and help in his bakery during the Great Depression. The story is told in Lydia Grace's letters to her uncle and to her family members, but it is also told quite eloquently in the illustrations (which helped earn the book a Caldecott honor medal). Lydia Grace learns to be a good baker, but her real love is gardening; she uses her talent with growing things to make the worl ...more
Set during The Great Depression, this story is told through letters from Lydia Grace, a little girl who is sent to live with her uncle in the city, away from her parents and her grandmother, who has taught her to garden. But Grandmother sends her with packets of seeds, and bulbs for a Christmas present, and seedlings in the mail, and Lydia Grace takes over the window boxes of the apartment building she lives in, and the transforms the rooftop in a garden in the city.

You really can't go wrong wit
Katie Fitzgerald
I love the detailed illustrations in this one, coupled with Lydia Grace’s letters from her Uncle Jim’s house. I expected the ending to be hokey, but it was surprisingly satisfying, and the final image almost brought tears to my eyes. I love the little details in the background of the pictures - FDR’s photo hanging on the wall of the bakery, the cat hanging around on the outskirts of the action on almost every page, the watermelon waiting to be eaten on the roof when the garden is finally finishe ...more
Melissa Goembel
The gardener is based in depression era America. The family cannot support Lydia and choose to send her to live with Uncle Jim. He owns a bakery in a city; where the economy is better. She is going to learn various lessons including learning to bake, creating a garden in the city, and the ability to connect with others. This is a great read and shows what families did sacrifice in the 1930’s.
Jody Ruff
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Gardner is a Historial fiction book, that is a favourite of mine to read. The author wrote this book about Lydia Grace writing letters to her family when the Great Depression was going on. Lydia Grace was sent to her Uncle's house to learn a trade. She enjoys learning new things from her Uncle and meets new friends. This is one of my favourite books to read to my class or sometimes to myself.
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the way this story introduces history in a way that interested the kids. The pictures tell a story in themselves and the kids scrambled to see. My daughter her last bed to both bake and garden thought it was wonderful! Will probably visit this one again.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful story, even for those who don't garden. :) Love the message of spreading beauty and hope through planting flowers.
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Caldecott winner Historical Fiction Review 1 6 Jul 02, 2012 01:13PM  

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Wife of famed illustrator, David Small, Sarah Stewart has written a number of children's books. She grew up in Texas, and lives in Michigan with her husband.

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