cover image Mrs. Spitzer's Garden

Mrs. Spitzer's Garden

Edith Pattou. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201978-5

At the end of each summer, the principal of Tremont Elementary School ""walks down the hall to Mrs. Spitzer's room and gives her a packet of seeds."" The cheerily appointed classroom (stocked with a gerbil, a rug with real hopscotch squares and a ""dress-up corner"") seems to augur a run-of-the-mill kindergarten tale, but Pattou (Hero's Song) soon launches her story into the realm of metaphor. Mrs. Spitzer's ""seeds"" are duly planted and tenderly nurtured, and while some ""grow quickly, pushing upward, eager, impatient,"" others ""grow more slowly, unfolding themselves bit by bit."" As the seasons progress, the little plants grow sturdier, until finally the school year comes to a close and Mrs. Spitzer's job is done. Pattou relates her parable in straightforward yet gentle prose, leaving the whimsy to Tusa's (Maebelle's Suitcase) pen-and-watercolor illustrations. Giving the flowers eager little faces and different personalities, she amplifies the theme so that even youngest readers will understand the true identity of Mrs. Spitzer's ""plants."" Whether outlining the happy clutter of classroom and garden or the flowers themselves, Tusa's artwork is almost infectiously merry. Paying visual homage to typical kindergarten art, this sweet story will shore up beginning students' expectations of classroom life. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)