Evergreen: Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
He was born many years ago.
Before computers and cell phones or television.
In fourth grade he got chicken pox.
How to tell the story of a lifetime? In his much-heralded new picture book, Grandpa Green (Roaring Brook, 2011), best-selling author-illustrator Lane Smith (It's a Book) shows the lifetime of Grandpa Green through the medium of arbor sculpture, the shaping of living plants into the forms of people, animals, or objects.
What seems a strange choice of storytelling becomes both philosophical and amusing, as a fond grandchild straightforwardly narrates the everyday milestones of Grandpa Green's life in the shapes of the shrubs and trees Grandpa has so skillfully created with his gardening shears and his artistic sensitivities. There is a bawling baby that he once was, chickens and eggs from his childhood farm chores, even an apple-spotted tree in the shape of the nine-year old chicken pox sufferer. The love of his life is sculptured as a topiary maiden, and his many children and grandchildren fill the landscape with childlike paper-doll shapes.
Grandpa Green did grow up to study horticulture, but he also saw duty in World War II, which he remembers in the shapes of the warplanes and parachuting soldiers he sculpts in his garden, and even when he grows old, he still manages to preserve much of his life in what he has created, both in his green and growing garden and in the evergreen memories of those whose lives he has also shaped. And the boy narrator has learned from him, and to show that he has, he shapes the figure of his grandfather with his own shears to add to the garden his Grandpa Green has given him.
Now he's pretty old.
And he sometimes forgets things, like his favorite straw hat.
But the important stuff
The garden remembers for him.
…An unassuming little masterpiece…the book's power lies in its rich, allusive artistry," says The New York Times. And in its starred review, School Library Journal agrees: "Visually intriguing and emotionally resonant, this is a book to pore over and talk about. With each subsequent reading, it offers new layers of meaning and visual connections."