At ELLA, we’re huge Peter H. Reynolds fans. But I need to tell you right now: this one’s my favorite of all his books.
The nutshell: Rose sails around the world in her giant teapot, until she arrives at a city where she decides to settle down. As she explores her new home, she finds an abandoned patch of dirt, where she decides to plant a garden. Rose experiences loss, and when things don’t go as planned, Rose waits with a fierce, unwavering hope. Even when nothing is growing in her garden, she waits. As people hear her story, they are moved by her hope, and bring her paper flowers. Soon there are hundreds of paper flowers…and among them a real garden begins to grow. In the end, people from all over the city are working, playing, and finding a safe place to belong in Rose’s community garden.
Peter Reynold’s artwork is simple and still so vibrant. With a few strokes of his pen and his brush, he creates a believable, relatable world. As Rose’s story begins, he paints in sepia tones and sets the stage for some historic folklore story. But as paper flowers arrive on the scene, each one is painted in beautiful, bright tones, and soon the most beautiful palette of colors emerges in the garden. It becomes clear that these people bring color to their story-world, each of them carrying their own unique hues, and together they can see color (read: beauty!) in the rest of the world too.
YES: I sound pretty mushy about right now. BUT I did warn you that it was my favorite, AND I’m a fool for: community, gardens, collaboration, and color, and this book has ALL of it.
First, we love this subtle story: sweet red-haired Rose is an immigrant, having travelled all over the world before finding her home in a new city. Her experience of loss and difficulty adjusting to a new place (even just the weather and it’s effect on growing things!) mirror the journeys of so many immigrants across the world and across history. Her fierce spirit that fights through all that, then brings something unique and life-giving to her city also reflects the richness that we experience in our communities when immigrants come, find a place to belong, and begin to share with their city what beautiful, unique gifts and perspectives they have. Her hope and her vision created a place for everyone to belong and flourish.
We also love that the visitors and contributors to Rose’s Garden are from a variety of cultures, each bringing a flower that (excuse me while I get all mushy again <3) whose unique color, shape, and beauty represents the unique gift that each person is, with only them having the unique cocktail of personality, life experience, perspective, culture, and color that they possess. And together! We only have this beautiful, varied garden through it’s diversity. YEP. I am in LOVE with this analogy for seeing and celebrating color, for celebrating each of our children, and for showing how gorgeous (and powerful!) we are when we come together.
Not gonna lie, we started our own garden because of this book. And at the giant neighborhood party we threw to kick it off… we had a humongous teapot with all sorts of giant paper flowers. Happy reading! (and planting?? 😉