cover image WHOSE GARDEN IS IT?


Mary Ann Hoberman, , illus. by Jane Dyer. . Harcourt/Gulliver, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-202631-8

At the opening of this inviting, oversize picture-book tribute to the ecosystem known as a garden, Mrs. McGee and her stroller-bound companion happen upon a beautifully blooming flower and vegetable garden. The woman wonders whose green thumb can claim ownership of the patch before her. A busy and rather gruff man weeding the gated plot informs her that he is the sole owner: "It's clear as can be!/ The garden you see belongs only to me!/ .../ No one can come here without my permission." But Mrs. McGee soon learns that the human gardener is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. In quick succession a rabbit, woodchuck, bird, worm and various insects as well as the soil, sun and the rain emerge to explain their rightfully important roles in making the garden grow. Hoberman (The Seven Silly Eaters ) succeeds in cleverly weaving together a simple story line and numerous facts about animal behavior and the life cycles of a garden within bouncy, rhyming verse, and she ends by letting the audience answer the unexpectedly thorny title question. Dyer's (Time for Bed ) soft watercolors depict a rainbow of accurately drawn flowers and vegetables alongside nattily dressed wildlife (even the earthworm sports a chapeau) and a sun sporting sunglasses. In her experienced hands, the results look more edifying than sentimental—akin to a naturalist's notebook mixed with cheery anthropomorphic touches. Ages 3-7. (May)