Reviews /

My Baba’s Garden

Authored by Jordan Scott
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Published by Walker Books Ltd

Tagged , , ,

Equally moving as I Talk Like a River, the previous collaboration between Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith, My Baba’s Garden is a sensitive and loving tribute to Scott’s grandmother.  Set in Canada, the country that the author’s Baba settled in after fleeing wartime Poland, the book begins with a young boy telling the reader the startling fact that Baba lives in a chicken coop beside a motorway. But this is a home of love and food where Baba stores the produce she grows in her garden so that she can show her love by delicious cooking. If a morsel of a meal is dropped, she picks it up, kisses it and returns it to the boy’s plate, such is her reverence for the food which she lacked as a young woman growing up. Every day Baba gives the boy breakfast and walks him to school, on the way looking for worms, picking them up and keeping them in a jar until she gets home and puts them in her garden to nourish the soil. Although they do not speak the same language, the boy and his grandmother communicate through love and gesture. Eventually, Baba comes to live with the boy and his family and as she becomes more frail, he brings her food, picking up any that is dropped, kissing it and returning it to the plate. He also goes out in the rain to collect worms.

Sydney Smith’s evocative images, dwelling on the domestic riches and warmth of Baba’s chicken coop home, and the luxuriant garden that she – and the worms – have created, perfectly complement the simply told story of the boy’s memories of his time with his grandmother. In sketchy prose, Jordan Scott conjures a lively active woman, singing to herself in her own language, absorbed in cooking and preserving the food she has grown, and preparing it for the young boy that she cares for. This beautiful book – beautiful in its illustrations, its language and its tribute to a resilient woman – will speak to young readers from 4 years upwards, but will resonate with any adult sharing the book as it captures a nostalgic sense of family love.

Selected for the Empathy Lab 2024 Collection