cover image My Baba’s Garden

My Baba’s Garden

Jordan Scott, illus. by Sydney Smith. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-5083-1

In this picture book by the creators of I Talk Like a River, first-person lines from a child speaker describe a grandmother who “lives in a chicken coop beside a highway,” where the child is dropped off every morning before school. Scott’s gentle narration reveals that “my Baba didn’t have very much food for/ a long, long time.” Now, the woman grows and saves it in the small residence, “jars of pickles in the bathroom, garlic hanging in the shower, beets on the shoe rack.” The two don’t have many words in common, but Baba serves the protagonist oatmeal each morning—and after a spill, picks it up, “kisses the oatmeal, puts it back into my bowl, and gently squeezes my cheeks.” During rainy-day walks, Baba displays another form of self-reliance, kneeling to collect worms for her garden, and helping to nourish the soil that will in turn provide sustenance. When Baba grows older and moves to the young grandchild’s house, it’s a reversal that sees the narrator bringing her oatmeal, planting seeds in her room... and heading out into the rain for worms. Smith captures the duo’s close bond in intimate, inky portraits that linger on their tan hands and faces as well as on images of precious food carefully grown and stored. Together, Scott and Smith create a portrait of a love which needs few words. An author’s preface offers a remembrance of Scott’s Polish Baba. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)