CM . . .
. Volume xxi Number 25 . . . . March 6, 2015
Each spring, the little girl who lives next door helps Rosario with his garden. At the girl’s home, the garden is full of flowers and weeds, but Rosario’s garden is full of vegetables! She watches as he turns over the soil in spring and then helps him to plant his vegetables. They grow tall and strong because he is a “garden magician”.
This year, Rosario does something unusual. He plants a fig tree. The tree grows and produces wonderful sweet figs. In the fall, Rosario does something very strange. He buries the fig tree. “I said we should have a funeral. Rosario just smiled.” In spring, Rosario and his friends dig up the fig tree so that it can produce wonderful sweet figs one more time. Once again, Rosario proves that he is a magician in his garden!
Charis Wahl has written a wonderful picture book about the relationship between a young girl and her older, wiser neighbour, Rosario. Rosario’s white hair and wrinkles speak to his age and experience. He is an expert gardener while the little girl is a novice. By working together on Rosario’s vegetable garden, the two become friends and share a love of growing things. The fig tree becomes a symbol of Rosario’s wisdom and his magical gardening powers.
Although Rosario’s Fig Tree is Charis Wahl’s first picture book, her text is beautifully written in a deceptively simple style. The vocabulary is appropriate for young readers, yet they will also learn many new terms associated with gardening. Wahl’s text is complemented by the luminous illustrations of Governor General’s Literary Award winner Luc Melanson. Both the young girl and her older, wiser neighbour Rosario have wide eyed expressive faces. The changing landscape of the garden at different times of the year, with its shades of green and brown, dominates the illustrations and focuses the reader’s attention on the basics of gardening: digging, planting, nurturing and harvesting.
Young readers will learn a great deal from this amazing picture book. The story of the fig tree and its rebirth will not only teach them about gardening, but it will also teach them about working with others and learning by doing. Rosario’s Fig Tree is an excellent springboard for both caregivers and teachers to discuss topics such as gardening, plants, relationships, co operation, friendship, neighbours, seasons, fruits and vegetables.
Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, resides in Toronto, ON.
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