Inspiring Young Readers
Mrs Noah’s Garden by Jackie Morris, illustrated by James Mayhew
We have been waiting with eager anticipation for the second instalment of Mrs Noah’s adventures for a long time. And what a treat it is -perhaps even surpassing the first one reviewed HERE. As with the best picture books, the carefully chosen words and rich illustrations work together to convey the simple narrative, providing spaces for the reader to linger, speculate, enjoy and interpret the multilayered meaning.
Once again the author describes how Mrs Noah uses her limited resources alongside imagination and optimism to create something wonderful. The Ark is now safely grounded and being cleverly converted into a house by Mr Noah, but she really misses her garden. So this becomes her equally important project and, with the help of the children, and other magical creatures, they work together to transform the otherwise barren landscape. I liked the first double page spread that shows her gazing longingly across the water, the muted purples, blues and greys conveying her sad mood.
Luckily, they had the sense to bring along plenty of trees, bushes, shrubs and bulbs for the trip so along with the seeds in her famously capacious pockets they are very well equipped. More colours start to appear in the illustrations as the garden slowly takes shape. Gardening in the real world can be back-breaking, but not in this poetically told quiet story:
‘Mrs Noah split the willow tree,
taking small shoots, pushing them
into the earth ...
weaving their stems together,
Making the beginnings of a willow bower.
Through this she trailed honeysuckle and jasmine’.
As the garden grows and blossoms, multitudes of bees, birds and strangely patterned dragonflies add to the gorgeous fecundity of this tapestry tale. By half way through the story, the increasingly pregnant Mrs Noah lies down for a well deserved rest on Midsummer’s Eve, watched over by a unicorn and attentive bird. After a couple more turns of the page - the new baby appears! This is a happy event to be celebrated by everyone with a well laden table under a gorgeously patterned hand sewn awning. As Mr and Mrs Noah walk through the garden with their sleeping baby, we can see and almost smell and feel the atmosphere with the boughs heavy with many coloured fruit, the shells along the path and the many vivid flowers and birds.
I loved the calm, assured way in which this woman takes on so many challenges and the overall positivity of being able to adapt and build something different with the help of others. This is an important fable with some resonance to the current concerns about approaching familiar tasks differently using imagination. It also has recognisable themes relating to refugees settling in a new land and clear messages about nurturing the natural environment. But ultimately, it is another stunning work of art by what is aptly described by the publicity as ‘a dream team’.
I do hope that there is a third story simmering away in the minds of these talented people. I will be buying copies for my children and grandchildren as well as recommending it to anyone who loves beautiful books.
(Click on any image below to view them in a slide show format)