Review: The Year of the Garden

Posted on May 2, 2017

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The Year of the Garden
Written by Andrea Cheng
Illustrated by Patrice Barton
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
April 2017
128 pages

The Year of the Garden is a prequel to The Year of series by Andrea Cheng, who passed away in 2015. This episode establishes the friendship between Anna Wang and Laura Morgan.

Eight-year old Anna has just moved to a new home in Cincinnati, with her Chinese-American father and her Chinese immigrant mother. Anna and her brother Ken tag along when their mother goes to the Shepherd’s house on Saturdays to clean and look after the elderly couple. Mrs. Shepherd gives Anna her old copy of The Secret Garden along with a bag full of seeds to plant her own garden. The next day while Anna reads the book under the honeysuckle bush in the yard, a girl named Laura stops by. Upon discovering that not only are they both new to the neighborhood but they are the same age and will be going to the same school, they become fast friends. But there are bumps along the way. When the girls clear a space in the backyard for their secret garden, Laura gets a bad case of poison ivy. After Anna refuses to join the soccer team with Laura, she is jealous of Laura’s friendship with her teammates and feels left out. The girls drift apart. Then one snowy day, Anna finds a baby bunny in the garden. Knowing that Laura has more experience with animals, Anna runs to her for help. Thanks to a bunny named Goo their friendship grows and their secret garden blooms. Cheng borrows from The Secret Garden theme of physical and emotional growth to show the budding friendship between Anna and Laura. By spotlighting Mrs. Wang’s struggle to assimilate into American culture, Cheng gracefully introduces diversity and environmentalism. Barton’s delicate pencil drawings in black and gray decorate this early chapter book while highlighting story details, which helps improve reading comprehension skills. The Year of the Garden is an engaging guidebook for growing a garden and cultivating a friendship.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Peggy Tibbetts

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