Doreen Cronin and David Small
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Terry Fan and Eric Fan
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
When you have an exuberant threenager who is obsessed with flowers, you read a LOT of books about flowers, gardens and nature. I am very excited about two of the newest books in our book collection, Bloom and The Night Gardener.
Bloom starts out as a fairytale-esque story about a fairy, Bloom, whose “magic” always managed to hold the kingdom together, but in messy, noisy ways. When Bloom leaves to find her own happiness, the kingdom falls into such disarray that the kingdom’s leaders are eventually prompted to search for Bloom. Bloom offers her magic to both the king and the queen when they find her – presented as a bucket of mud – but is rebuffed each time.
This is when the story shifts to the story of Genevieve, a slight, sweet girl who believes she is too ordinary to make a difference. Genevieve also finds Bloom, but when Bloom presents her with the same bucket of mud, she gives the fairy a chance to explain. While learning Bloom’s “magic,” Genevieve begins to bloom herself, coming to the realization that there is, in fact, “no such thing as an ordinary girl.”
Though I recommend the book, the story isn’t a perfect one. It switches from Bloom’s story to Genevieve’s with no real resolution for Bloom. It also gives the Queen too much power in sending Genevieve on her initial quest – even though the Queen believes Genevieve to be completely ordinary (a negative quality to the Queen), she admits that Genevieve is their “last hope.”
Doreen Cronin and David Small have delivered a story that provides just the right balance of royalty, fairies and nature to keep both princess-obsessed and “tomboy” audiences entertained. While I would love to say that even boys would be entertained by the story of a fairy using the magic of nature and science to hold together a kingdom, there is a very female-centric message to the book. I would have loved to see the book explore the message that there is no such thing as an ordinary person as opposed to an ordinary girl.
Despite that, Bloom is a beautiful reminder that even when we feel completely, or even less than, ordinary, we CAN do amazing, “magical” things.
And speaking of amazing, “magical” things, the Fan Brothers’ The Night Gardener is another reminder that even small acts of art and creation can bring community together in magical ways.
The story centers on William, an orphan living on Grimloch Lane, and his relationship with the creator of magnificent masterpieces popping up all over town. The Night Gardener and William bring magic to the town in ways that leave no evidence that anything had ever happened once the seasons changed – “but the people of the small town were never the same.”
The brevity of the text (less than 400 words) allows the art to shine – and brings even more power to each beautifully chosen word. The Fan Brothers have delivered a story that feels like it has been around for many years – in the best way possible. Community, wonder, art and magic – all rolled up in one captivating package.
I hope you enjoy both of these books as much as we have, but I would love to hear your thoughts!