The Flower Garden | Review
The Flower Garden
Writer/artist: Renée Kurilla
Amulet Books; $12.99
Best friends Anna and Tess plant a packet of seeds marked “Bee Food” in the backyard and then lay down to watch and wait for the seeds to grow. They need not wait long; no sooner do they close their eyes to take a nap than the flowers are all fully grown and towering above the girls, each flower several stories high. Or so it seems. In actuality, not only did the flowers grow, but the girls shrank. What magic caused this? Gnome magic.
That’s’the start of Renée Kurilla’s charming graphic novel The Flower Garden, in which the two friends meet a little gnome named May, whose magical powers help flowers grow and who gives them a gnome’s-eye-view tour of the amazing world in their own backyard.
This includes close-up meetings with bugs, hopping on mushrooms, swinging on flower stems, a ride on the back of a bird and, eventually, a tour of the elaborate underground home of the gnomes.
Throughout it all there’s a degree of tension between Anna and Tess, which started with the former’s insistence that they plant flowers to help save the bees, despite Tess’ reluctance–she’s afraid of bees. Anna embraces the adventure with open arms, but Tess is worried about the change and thinks they should go back home. Eventually things come to a head and the girls are separated, at which point Anna realizes she’s been a bad friend and seeks to make things right—but will it be too late to do so?
Kurilla’s artwork bursts with bright, warm colors and her designs are simple and sharp. Though the storytelling is super easy to follow, and should be appropriate for even the youngest readers, some of the artwork is packed with details, particularly the scenes set inside the underground home of the gnomes, revealed on a two-page spread which encourages a long look to drink in all the details. There are also several cutaway scenes showing the underground tunnel system full of animals that leads to the gnome home that are full of fun details to linger on.
In the end, Anna learns a lesson about listening to her friend, and young readers will learn it as well, just as they will learn of the importance of bees and that stingers or no, they’re more cute and funny than they are scary. There’s an awful lot of sugar accompanying this moral medicine, though. The Flower Garden is a winning, gentle adventure for comics fans of all ages.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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