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The Night Gardener

by Eric Fan; Terry Fan

One morning, William awakens to a commotion and dashes outside. There he sees that, as if by magic, a tall tree has been shaped into a topiary owl overnight. The next morning, another tree has been transformed into a topiary cat. Each day brings a new wonder: a rabbit, a parakeet, an elephant, and, finally, an enormous dragon. The townspeople all come out to take photographs, chat, make music, and play games beneath the sculpted branches. But who is making these works of art?

BfYPMay_TheNightGardener_CoverAs the sun begins to set one evening, William notices a man carrying a ladder, and follows him to the park. The man turns to William: “There are so many trees in this park. I could use a little help,” he says. And so William spends the wee hours helping the Night Gardener and learning the man’s craft. He awakens the next morning beside a pair of shears bearing the tag, “For William.” It seems the man has passed on his title to the young boy.

This wonderful book is a rich feast for the eyes. The pictures tell most of the story through myriad details. The first wordless pages depict a faded, depressed community where people walk alone (calling to mind Depression-era images). But with the coming of the Night Gardener’s sculptures, the whole mood changes and the pages fill with colour and activity. Time periods also become incidental: cars, cameras, and fashions from different eras, as well as people of all ages and cultures, mingle beneath the trees, creating a sense of a timeless, universal space. The community spirit continues after the Night Gardener’s departure; William and his town have been changed forever by the beauty of art and the power of imagination.