In this parable like story, nothing disturbs Grandmother Thorn’s well-tended garden. With eyes narrowed and sharply etched frown lines, she maintains every leaf and pebble in its proper place. Grandmother Thorn values tidiness and symmetry above all else, ripping out weeds and chasing away birds with her gravelly voice and rake raised high. The only crack in her well-ordered life is her friendship with Ojiisan (“grandfather” in Japanese), who walks with a slow, shuffling gait and provides her with sweets and good conversation. Knowing her fondness for sweets, he send s a berry peddler her way, but Grandmother Thorn chases him away when he breaks off one of her blooms. One stray berry takes root in the garden, and though Grandmother Thorn battles the stubborn off-shoot, it reappears each day. The woman falls ill, and in her absence, Ojiisan tends the garden. When she returns, the berry plant sports colorful fruit, and birds, squirrels, and bunnies have moved in. Grandmother Thorn has a change of heart. Hahn’s impressive eye-catching illustrations with intricate designs and shapes dominated by strong lines give the pictures a layered look. Intriguing sewn and painted patterns and details enhance the story, with its Japanese setting and phrases.
VERDICT This well-crafted take offers a gentle lesson of stewardship and living in peace with nature. Teachers and parents will appreciate its story, and readers of all ages will delight in its appealing design. -Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA