The Curious Garden

Illustrated by Peter Brown

“The garden had always wanted to explore the rest of the city, and that spring it was finally ready to make its move”

Liam is a boy who likes to wander outside in his city, and one day during his wanderings, he discovers some plants struggling to grow by an old railway. Liam takes it upon himself to assist the plants in their desire to grow upwards. He starts tending to them, and over time, the plants grow and follow the tracks. The growing greenery inspires more young gardeners to spread kindness to nature the same way that Liam did. The following spring, the plants spread all across the city, with the whole community learning to tend to nature carefully and appreciate the living things around them. This is a beautiful story, with beautiful illustrations to match, about how one child can inspire others to transform and greenify the world.

Told in lyrical prose, The Curious Garden introduces young readers to the beauty and care of gardening, the impact of youth climate action, and the concept of collective action. This is a story that heavily emphasizes the idea that Earth is alive and has a personality (see: Gaia) through prose that describes the plants as having desires and curiosity. The anthropomorphism of the garden emphasizes how Liam works in tandem with nature in order for it to thrive. While there are depictions of human-oriented gardening practices like pruning and topiaries, many of the plants in the illustrations appear to be wildflowers and native grasses that are encouraged to grow however they wish. Liam’s kindness toward his plant neighbors inspires the members of his community around him to also treat their environment in this way. The contrast between the opening pages, which show a smoggy cityscape, and the final pages, which show the same landscape with greenery infused into it, highlight how nature is not necessarily antithetical to urban environments. This book encourages the reader to consider how gardening impacts shared spaces, and can easily lead into activities like classroom gardens. This book can inspire students through its fantastical elements and environmentalism lens, teaching them how one small action can lead to a community of activism and plant conservation.

©2024 ClimateLit (Sierra Zielinski with later edits by Emily Midkiff)


Check out this Educator’s Guide:

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009

Pages: 40

ISBN: 9780316015479

Audience: Little People (4-7), Sprouts (0-3)

Format: Picturebooks

Topics: Collective Action, Earth's Aliveness, Environmentalism, Gaia, Gardening, Urban Environments, Urban Garden, Youth Climate Activism