Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

A Garden Called Home

by Jessica J. Lee and Elaine Chen (ill.)

l to r: Jessica J. Lee (Credit: Ricardo A. Rivas) and Elaine Chen

Jessica J. Lee’s debut picture book, A Garden Called Home, is a love story for children of the diaspora. This picture book explores the precious bond between a mother and daughter, and also asks, where is home when we are estranged from it? And, for many third culture kids, what is this home they’ve never experienced?

Through Mama’s eyes, we witness the darkness and alienation that winter brings, and how far away from home she feels. Her thoughtful, curious daughter notices this sadness in her mother, and yet from her perspective, the world holds wonder and possibility. 

A Garden Called Home tracks their journey as they leave their wintry home to visit family in warmer climes, reconnecting with their culture, language, family, and land. For second- and third-generation kids who grow up visiting their parents’ homelands, this book will resonate deeply.

Lee is a master at layering facts into the story, from Mama’s tidbits of plant knowledge to her demonstration of the interrelationships within ecosystems. We learn along with our young protagonist as she reflects, “I never thought about tree roots before. Or that mountains would need help to stay strong.”

One of the most touching elements of the tale is how the torch of passionate inquiry is passed down from mother to daughter. On their trip, Mama teaches her daughter about the land; when they return, her daughter takes it upon herself to teach her mother about the hidden magic of winter.

Illustration: Elaine Chen

Elaine Chen’s stunning watercolour illustrations are made even more delightful by the inclusion of crayon-like drawings, hinting at the ongoing collaboration between mother and daughter.

The book fittingly culminates in the planting of a garden – mother and daughter together plant local wildflowers along with those that grow back home. The act of gardening becomes a metaphor for what is possible when we plant roots in fertile soil.

The glossary at the end of the book is a useful addition, with explanations and descriptions of the plants, trees, herbs, and flowers mentioned throughout the story.

A Garden Called Home is a heartening reminder to hold on to our inherited seeds wherever we go, allowing them to bloom in all the places we come to call home.


Reviewer: Sheniz Janmohamed

Publisher: Tundra Books


Price: $24.99

Page Count: 48 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 9781774880470

Released: February

Issue Date: February 2024

Categories: Kids’ Books, Picture Books

Age Range: 3–7