The Night Gardener by Terry Fan and Eric Fan
The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers, published 2016
Since I’ve been working on a picture book series with my twin for the past decade off and on, I’m obligated to love The Night Gardener, merely for the fact that it was created by two siblings, Eric Fan and Terry Fan.
And while the illustrations are amazing, I have to admit I was more excited by the cover art and potential of the book than the actual story. While there is mystery and there is a plot and arc, if you will, there are definite ‘holes’ in the story.
There are several unresolved issues—as in, does William become the new night gardener? What happens to the William and the other orphans? Where does the night gardener go? In the end, ‘the people of the small town were never the same’ and it’s signified by the addition of much color to the accompanying illustration. But what happened to them? Are they happier? What about the children in the orphanage? Now, don’t get me wrong—I don’t think orphanages have to be unhappy places but they do have a traditional place in literature to signify some sort of badness. (Anne of Green Gables, Annie, any Dickens tale etc)
So what happens to these children?
Maybe even the authors don’t know?
It feels unfinished to me, but maybe that’s okay. Sometimes it’s okay to leave a book wanting more.
Little Lion bookworm review:
Definitely! Love it!
Rating: Despite having said all of the above, I might place this book on the floor for little hands to grab easily, or standing open to one of the intricate drawings so that you could admire it at all times.
Rating: Buy it or borrow it or skip it?
Me: Buy it. It is beautifully illustrated and it’s a book you’re going to want to read again and again, if only to choose which is your favorite tree sculpture. (Mine is the dragon. Little Lion Bookworm’s favorite is the cat, of course. “Because I like cats. I would call it a lion.”)
Mini-me: It’s an acquired taste, so borrow it, then buy it if you like it.
Little Lion: Buy it!
Edited to add: The Fan brothers illustrated The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield that was just released two weeks ago. An aspiring astronaut who is afraid of the dark? Intriguing! I'll definitely be checking this one out.