My Nana’s Garden by Dawn Casey

Values: Love, Joy and Kindness.

This book was on the Kate Greenaway longlist for 2021 and rightly-so as Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s illustrations have created a visually stunning masterpiece. The colourful pages perfectly accompany Dawn Casey’s rhyming, gentle language that guide you through this book.

This is a book that follows generations of a family (specifically the women and girls) as a garden grows and changes over the years. In the beginning, there is Nana and her grand-daughter and the reader observes as Nana teaches her grand-daughter all about the creatures and birds that make their home in the garden. They sing together, sit by a fire and admire the wild flowers and bees. As the pages turn, all of the characters are getting older and the reader sees Nana still enjoying her garden, but from her wheelchair. Sadly, we learn that Nana has gone one day by the symbolism of her empty chair. As the story continues, we see the little girl has grown up, is pregnant and then brings her own daughter to the garden. It is a beautiful ‘full-circle’ book.

This is a book that you could explore with a class or with a small group or even individual, especially if you choose to use it for looking at bereavement of a grandparent. The Values that you could explore include love, joy and kindness.

Firstly, the Value of love. Love shines through the pages of this book as you watch the generations of women and girls enjoying the garden together. The adults hold the children up to see owls, cuddle on chairs in front of the fire, and sing songs in the rain together. They physical body language and the words on the page emit love, and it would be a great conversation starter to find out what children do with their parents or grandparents or families that they enjoy. If a child has lost a loved one, it might help them to remember happy memories, like the family does in this book.

Secondly, the Value of joy is clear to see. Not only to the family find joy in the garden – spotting the little creatures together, picking pumpkins, watching the baby birds – but they also find joy in each other. Their smiling faces tell children that this is somewhere that they are happy together and even after Nana has gone, they still return to, and enjoy, the garden. The only time the characters are not smiling is in the bleak winter when Nana’s empty chair remains in the wintery garden. However, a snowdrop blooms despite the coldness and a new season is begun. Slowly, the family learn to live without Nana, be happy and remember her.

Lastly, the Value of kindness is seen so many times that even the littlest children will be able to identify it. The way the children and adults treat the garden is with kindness, from letting it grow wild so to make little pathways for little feet; to planting seeds and watering plants. My class last year loved singing to their plants when we were growing seeds, after reading that treating plants with kindness helps growth, and you can almost imagine this happening in the garden. The adults and children also treat each other with kindness throughout the story too. It is a lovely visual depiction of this Value!

I have really enjoyed this touching book. Every time I read it, I notice more and I think you will get a lot of use from it in the primary classroom or at home. I loved the reference to the seasons, new beginnings and the healing power of nature. You can grab a copy from lots of independent booksellers!

If you want to explore other books on the blog with the same Values, you can click here: