The Garden, Dyan Sheldon and Gary Blythe
I don’t have many books left from my childhood. A few, but not many. Foolish lending put paid to several of them, like one of my Harry Potters, and The Ruby In The Smoke. But my real sadness comes from the multiple teenage purges that parted me from my battered, beloved, read-and-reread copies of books like Black Beauty and White Fang – though not Just So Stories or The Jungle Book or A Little Princess, presumably because I thought that, as I was, at the grand age of 15 or whatever, so grown-up, that I couldn’t possibly want a book about a horse any more… I don’t know. I needed space for Real Books, or something. How wrong I was. I’ve replaced some of them in recent months, but there are others I can’t remember the titles of, or have forgotten about completely until reminded of them, and, besides, it’s different, having a new copy, to having the same one I hid under the covers with a torch to read. My mum made me keep two copies of the same book, Teddy’s Friend – one is the English version, the other American, and there are a few subtle differences between them – but no other picture books.
Except The Garden.
I don’t know who gave me this, but I don’t know of anyone else who had it. When Jenny finds a piece of flint in her garden, she thinks it might be magic. But her mother says that it could be an arrowhead, and tells her how, before their house was built, Native American people roamed the plains. Jenny camps in the garden that night, and dreams of visiting a Native American camp, where she is asked to put the arrowhead back where she found it. It’s about honesty, and respect for the past and for people, and about putting right a wrong. It is also very beautiful. The illustrations are stunning, and inspiring, with all the smoky warm quality that evokes bonfires on late summer evenings, and sleeping outside.
I’m not really sure why it survived all my purges when books I read avidly did not, but I’m glad it did. I’m glad I still have it, to flick through again, and to share with others. I believe it’s out of print, but there are still copies available online, and I highly recommend it, whether for a small person in your life, or for yourself.
Other categories that The Garden fits into: a book by a female author, a book set in a different country, a book you can finish in a day, a book with magic