The Curious Garden

Hopeful tale with unique artwork will inspire all ages.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Teaches that one person, even a kid doing something small, can make a big difference in the world. Also, shows kids that they can get better at something if they work at it, and read about it too.

Positive messages

A little boy's love of exploring leads him to the plants. His curiosity leads him to start tending the plants. He studies and learns to become a better gardener, and all of his efforts pay off to make the world a better place.

Positive role models

The boy is a wonderful role model for kids. He is good-hearted, curious, earnest, and responsible.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book will inspire kids to look for plants in the most unlikely places, and challenge them to learn how to tend them and make them grow and spread.

Kids say

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What's the story?

While exploring, a curious young boy discovers a few struggling plants on an abandoned railroad trestle. With tender care and a little research, he ignites an explosion of flowers, grasses, vines, and shrubs, and changes his community forever.

Is it any good?


Is the garden called curious because it's strange and almost magical, or because, given half a chance, it's a garden bent on exploring every nook and cranny of Liam's world? In either case, the way it bursts into bloom with just a bit of tender care is inspirational.  And, the way it awakens the entire community is a lesson for us all. 

The story here is original, as is the artwork that moves it along. The eye-catching paintings are simple yet complicated, and amazingly expressive, especially the landscapes. In the beginning, the beige-toned city, highlighted only by black smoke puffing out into the beige sky, is the very definition of a drab, dreary industrial world. Then little by little, color returns until, like a patchwork quilt, the city is patterned, and green, and lush. And the sky behind the billowing white clouds is a vivid blue.

The best part is the hopeful lesson. Not only does the young boy change his drab world into a beautiful garden, one plant at a time, but, in the process, he also inspires people all around him to love and tend their gardens, too.  

Colorful and expressive, but not over-the-top glossy, the almost surreal artwork in this book really tells the story. The cover itself, with its shrubs in the shape of birds and butterflies, promises a magical world teeming with green grasses, fields of daisies,  and billowing white clouds in the blue, blue sky. And the rest of the book delivers. Painted in acrylic and gouache, the boy's city changes from a plant-less, grey industrial place to a very colorful one filled with gardens and gardeners. Sans words, several full-paged illustrations in the middle of the book are particularly amazing in color and detail.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the city. What made it so dreary? Why did most people stay inside, and why do you think the boy went out? Which do you think you would rather do?

  • How did Liam help the plants? What did they need, and how did he learn what to do?

  • What happened when Liam tended the plants? Where did they go, and how did they move so far? Do you think that would really happen? Could it?

  • What happened when the plants began to grow in other parts of the city? When the whole community began tending the plants, how did their city change?

Book details

Author:Peter Brown
Illustrator:Peter Brown
Genre:Picture Book
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:April 1, 2009
Number of pages:40
Read aloud:4
Read alone:7

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written byginapina February 20, 2011
age 4+

great story, beautiful pictures

What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Educator and Parent Written byyukwah25 April 10, 2013
age 2+

A lovely green fable with amazing artwork

My 2-year-old and I have checked this one out from the library several times in the last few months. I probably should buy a copy already. My daughter loves the artwork--it is is so vibrant and she'll pore over the pictures, always discovering new details and asking new questions. I like the green message, which is well-done and not preachy, and I also like how empowering the story is for young children. Highly recommended!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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