cover image The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

Gene Barretta, illus. by Frank Morrison. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-243015-1

Barretta opens this sensitive biography on a moment of triumph as Carver overcomes the scorn of a roomful of white congressmen in 1921. Told he has only 10 minutes to make his case, he enthralls them, then talks for another hour. A portrait by Morrison shows Carver leaving the chamber, glad to have “share[d] what he knew.” This incident anchors an exploration of his young life. Forbidden an education, Carver teaches himself by patient experimentation with flowers that he cultivates in secret “so no one could find them or tease him.” Eventually, he becomes a local asset: “Here comes the Plant Doctor,” neighbors say. Barretta explains why peanuts were crucial (cotton had exhausted the soil) and celebrates Carver’s formidable success as peanuts become the South’s most popular crop. “Regard Nature. Revere Nature. Respect Nature” were his prescient commands. Through myriad lush garden scenes and impressive portraiture by Morrison, Carver emerges as a generous figure, a “living folk hero,” able to do whatever he set out to and “always ready to serve humanity.” Ages 4–8. (Jan.)