cover image The Concrete Garden

The Concrete Garden

Bob Graham. Candlewick, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5362-3380-3

After a “cold, hard winter” in a building whose watercolor-and-ink facade nearly fills the page, a few adults wearing surgical face masks and a group of maskless children “spilled out like candies from a box” onto a concrete plaza. The last of the children, Amanda, carries a large box of chalk. She draws a circle with appendages that resembles a coronavirus virion, and another child quickly turns the shape into a dandelion, setting off a cascade of creativity among the kids, portrayed with various skin tones. Each one adds an interpretation of much-missed nature, and the image of a visiting alien spaceship appears for good measure. When Rosie draws a “Queen of Swirls,” the collaboration coalesces into a true Gesamtkunstwerk: “A beautiful and exotic garden spread across the concrete. And the Queen of Swirls ruled.” Peering from above, another figure, Nasrin, snaps a photo for her mother in Iran (“A concrete garden—isn’t it something?”), and it travels around the world, offering cheer and hope to many. Alternating wide shots of the decorated plaza with tighter vignettes of the artists thoughtfully evaluating their canvas, executing their ideas, and reflecting on the results, Graham (Jigsaw) celebrates the book’s young cast as serious creators joined in sharing art’s healing power. Ages 3–7. (Nov.)