The trouble with caterpillars

In my last post I wrote about Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar.  This set me down a track that I hadn’t planned. When I started writing about gardening books, I imagined I would include my favourite ‘how to garden’ books and a few of the more reflective ones on ‘why I garden’.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar reminded me about all the lovely children’s picture books that feature gardening.   I’m not sure they’ve influenced my gardening as such but some of them do inspire me.  So to start off this children’s book diversion I thought I’d mention some of my favourites. Top of the list, although not necessarily in this order are:

Babette’ Cole’s The Trouble with Grandad (part of a series of troublesome relatives books that are equally good but not about gardening so I’ll restrain myself on those).  Grandad in the book is a traditional flat-capped gardener whose problem is that he grows enormous vegetables.  Of course they get out of hand and all sorts of wild adventures follow. Babette Cole draws some cool vegetables but I think animals are her favourite characters.  Without giving away the plot, the stars are the caterpillars so they could easily have featured in last week’s post.

I also love Sarah Garland’s Doing the Garden ,featuring a harassed mum, her two small children and a dog, as they set out to get some flowers for the garden.  Apparently Sarah Garland’s books appeal to older siblings coping with the trauma of a younger child.  In our family, (and as a second child myself) we appreciated the younger child usually getting the last word.  Looking at it again now, I am struck by the winter vegetables growing in the garden at the start of the book and the impressive compost bin towards the end.

My all-time favourite book illustrator is Quentin Blake and I was wondering if any of his books featured gardening.  Probably several of them do (Cockatoos has an exotic conservatory for example) but The Green Ship is a joy.  In this book two children find a neglected garden, a ship made out of trees and the woman who made it – it’s too hard to describe, you have to read it. But it’s an absolutely lovely story with a perspective on gardening which goes beyond the imaginative games of childhood and touches on growth, grief and regrowth.

I could also mention Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden but I thought that these three were a little less well known.  Maybe I’ll get on to more another day and that might lead me into the wider territory of gardening in adult books and films but I’ll stop here for now.

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