Have you ever seen a flower or weed struggling through a crack in the concrete? On the Big Island of Hawaii, new plant life emerges from the ash and cinders of the 1959 eruption of the volcano on Devastation Trail, a place named for its bare landscape. The power of plants to stun us with their resilience and beauty is the theme of Peter Brown’s picture book – The Curious Garden.
Brown uses Manhattan’s old Highline elevated train tracks, long unused and now overgrown with wildflowers and trees as his inspiration for a little boy’s dream to beautify the city. Finding some struggling wildflowers among the deserted train tracks in the “dreary city without gardens,” Liam decides to help by being their gardener. Eventually, the garden takes over, changing the gray city into a magnificent green world.
Brown’s text is simple and easy, with his art dominating most of the pages. The city transforms gradually, with Liam taming the plants that pop up “where they didn’t belong” – on fire hydrants and stop signs, and enlisting “new gardeners” for rooftop displays all over Manhattan’s skyscrapers. The last two facing pages open to gardens everywhere among the skyline.
The Curious Garden is a wonderful way to introduce children to the possibility of gardens anywhere and everywhere, and to remind adults that being green may just be helping nature take its course.