cover image Beautiful


Susi Gregg Fowler. Greenwillow Books, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15111-9

A gift from an uncle to his nephew blossoms into a deeper bond in this quiet and subtle picture book from the creators of I'll See You When the Moon Is Full. Uncle George is a gardener who ""makes dark places bright and turns ordinary places into something wonderful."" But Uncle George is unwell and must go away for special treatment. For his nephew's birthday, the man gives him all he needs to start his own garden and to assuage the boy's loneliness, saying, ""Maybe you won't feel I'm so far away."" The boy faithfully cares for his garden, and exchanges postcards and phone calls with his uncle about his seedlings' progress. When Uncle George comes home to spend his final days, he's too weak to go outside, so his nephew brings the garden to him, in the shape of a colorful bouquet. Susi Gregg Fowler's poignant depiction of the bond between nephew and uncle unfolds through the boy's perspective and primarily through dialogue, keeping the emotions immediate for readers. While the characters in Jim Fowler's acrylic portraits come off stiffly, he makes excellent use of light and shadow and successfully evokes the colors and atmosphere of those early spring days. Together, author and artist effectively chart both the glorious promise of the garden as well as the deeper themes of love and loss. Ages 4-up. (May)