Illustrated by Jasu Hu
Neal Porter Books, November 7, 2023 / 978-0823451012 / 32 pp. / Ages 4-8
Growing and harvesting an herb garden can be fun and oh so satisfying—even in the dead of winter.
Winter outside the window,
Garden on the sill.
With a little bit of love and care, a few seeds nestled in pots, and a good windowsill, there’s no better time to make an herb garden with mom than in the dead of winter. Together, a young girl and her mother can grow everything you find in a spring herb garden, from oregano to parsley and baby greens, carefully tending their plants to watch them thrive, all while frigid snow falls just outside the window. The multiple harvests of fresh greens are just what they need to stay warm through the coldest and darkest season. When Spring finally arrives, there’s one thing on the girl’s mind: more seeds!
In WINTERGARDEN, author Janet Fox’s poetic text is accompanied by the dreamy watercolor artwork of acclaimed illustrator Jasu Hu. Additional material at the back of the book includes information on how to grow your own wintergarden, to make sure you and your family can share fresh greens year-round.
Every winter, a mother and child plant a garden in their city apartment.
The child, who has pale skin and wavy dark hair, explains that when it snows, the two of them plant seeds in pots that line the windowsill of their home. Delicate watercolor, colored pencil, and mixed-media paintings show them selecting and planting the “teeny tiny / seeds like freckles / seeds like eyelashes / seeds like the wings of bees.” Meanwhile, outside, blues and purples blanket the warm glow of streetlights, and “the leafless trees are stark and dark. / The cars roll by in slushy rumbles.” One day, the seeds sprout in the yellow glow of light, and they grow fast. Soon, the whole family is eating lettuce leaves that “crunch like / tiny icicles in my mouth,” and “the parsley dusts the potatoes / like green snowflakes.” On each page, winter imagery, both visual and linguistic, is paired with references to growth and vibrancy—a juxtaposition that emphasizes the joy and wonder of life, as well as the loving care that is given and received among both people and plants. The family soon needs more seeds, and the child gets to choose them, plant them, and wait…for spring. Endnotes give instructions on growing a winter garden, and beautiful endpapers feature paintings of plants and leaves. (This book was reviewed digitally.)
Glowing and warm, full of life.
It’s possible to have a garden both in a city and during winter, Fox (The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle) shows in this melodically described portrait of a window-sill herb garden. “Pots in a row,/ on a windowsill,/ our kitchen/ smells like rain,” lines read, as a child stands on a step stool while their mother prepares pots of soil for seeding. The parent gives tender attention to both the seeds and the child: “She shows me what we’ve planted,/ names on the paper packets.” Working in delicate, tissue-like watercolor and mixed media shot through with light and crystalline forms, Hu (All You Need) alternates between scenes of the gardeners in their kitchen and close-ups of the plants, the roots they’re growing beneath the soil, and the tiny sprouts that emerge. When the herbs are ready to use, the family, portrayed with pale skin and dark hair, shares their tasty bounty (“The oregano makes the soup/ taste like summer”) until the next season arrives. It’s a story of tender care and nature’s contrasts: snowy cold outside, the miracle of things growing inside. Instructions for making a winter garden conclude.
Janet Fox’s second picture book, Wintergarden, is a lyrically hopeful story about a young girl who learns nurturing green-thumb lessons from her patient mother. Artist Jasu Hu, who was born in China and lives in New York City, augments Fox’s smooth text with exquisite spreads created with watercolor, pencil, and mixed media, resulting in synchronous perfection….Fox and Hu create a symbiotically exquisite idyll about an urban family and their nourishing winter garden.
In the depths of winter, a girl and her mother grow a thriving herb garden on their apartment windowsill. The attentive child poetically outlines the planting process, which involves pots of soil that make their kitchen smell “like rain” and sowing “teeny tiny / seeds like freckles, / seeds like eyelashes, / seeds like the wings of bees.” With beguiling awe and infectious enthusiasm, the young urban gardener nurtures the plants as they grow, making sure they have enough water and sunlight: “I watch. And wait. And wonder.” Outside, the trees are leafless; inside, tiny green sprouts “appear like magic overnight.” Hu’s exquisite, light-infused watercolor, colored-pencil, and mixed-media illustrations capture the beauty found in scenery from both sides of the window. Delicate crystal shapes on the frosted panes of glass are likened to lacy leaf patterns on the fast-growing, verdant greenery. At harvest time, another sensory-rich experience is on the table for the child to enjoy, as she savors lettuce leaves that “crunch like tiny icicles,” and sprigs of oregano that make soup “taste like summer.” Back matter offers easy-to-follow instructions and tips on how to grow a windowsill winter garden, and plants seeds for further investigation with a suggested reading list. Botanical joy grows by leaps and bounds in this radiant picture book.