10 gardens in children's books that will make you want to step outside and go on an adventure
Published on: 11 June 2019 Author: A M Howell
Secret gardens, vegetable patches and country houses: there's just something about certain settings in kids' books that bring a tale to life and will always stay with you. Writer A M Howell gives us some of the best...
Illustration by Erika Meza
With themes of secrets, mystery and bravery, my book, The Garden of Lost Secrets, is set in the walled kitchen gardens at Ickworth Park in Suffolk (a National Trust property), one of my favourite places to visit in the local area with its unspoilt views and echoes of the past.
The story is centered on 12-year-old Clara, sent to stay with her aunt and uncle in the walled gardens during World War Two, and who is quickly plunged into a tangle of secrets – a locked room and a hidden key, a thief stealing the Earl’s precious pineapples and a boy who only appears at night.
But Clara also has a secret of her own – a terrible one about her brother who is fighting in the war.
While I loved writing about the garden in my book, I also enjoy reading children’s books which feature gardens.
Here are 10 of my favourite gardens in children's books:
1. Igglepiggle’s Lost Blanket: A Lift-the-Flap Book (In the Night Garden), Ladybird
My children were obsessed with In the Night Garden when they were small, and this chunky board book is perfect bed-time reading with its vibrant colours and characters from the popular TV show.
2. There’s a Tiger in the Garden, Lizzy Stewart, Lincoln Children’s Books
Winner of the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize in 2017, this is a lovely picture book about the power of imagination.
3. The Night Gardener, Terry and Eric Fan, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
In this picture book, a small grey town is brought to life by a mysterious night gardener who sculpts the trees into beautiful topiaries, transforming orphan William’s life.
4. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter, Warne
This is one of the first books I ever read, and I love the fact that Mr McGregor’s vegetable garden is both an exciting and terrifying place to be if you happen to be a rabbit.
5. Country House Garden: Sticker Book, Struan Reid (author), Lucy Grossmith (illustrator), Usborne
This will keep little ones occupied for ages, with over 300 stickers to fill the beautiful illustrations of walled gardens, vegetable gardens, orchard, wildflower garden, and many more.
Illustration by Erika Meza
6. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Vintage Books
A children’s classic. Each time I read it, I discover something new. I love the themes of the secret garden being brought back to life alongside the children who play in it.
7. Tom’s Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce, Oxford University Press
When the clock in his grandparents’ house strikes 13, Tom discovers their tiny backyard is now a moonlit garden. His friendship with Hatty, the girl he meets there, is heartwarming, and I challenge anyone to read the end without a tear in their eye.
8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll (author), John Tenniel (illustrator), Arcturus
A lovely hardback edition with original illustrations, I particularly love the chapter where Alice enters the terrifying Queen of Hearts' garden and sees the playing cards painting the white rose trees red, because the queen cannot bear the colour white.
9. The Explorer, Katherine Rundell (author) and Hannah Horn (illustrator), Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Winner of multiple awards, this isn’t about a garden in the traditional sense of the word, but Katharine’s vivid descriptions of the wild and untamed beauty of the Amazonian rainforest make it worthy of including on this list.
10. The Secret of Nightingale Wood, Lucy Strange, Chicken House
A brilliantly atmospheric historical mystery set in 1919. The descriptions of Hope House’s gardens and the mysterious Nightingale Wood that lies beyond it are beautiful.