Book review: In the Garden, by Gillian Candler, illustrated by Ned Barraud

Available in bookstores now.cv_in_the_garden

I have an embarrassing lack of knowledge about the birds that hang out in my backyard. It was my preschooler who called attention to it as we feed the flyers toast crusts each morning. Referring to them as either black birds or brown birds didn’t really cut it for a young, enquiring mind. But now thanks to a gorgeous wee book by Gillian Candler and Ned Barraud, we can learn the differences together. Our post-breakfast ritual need no longer be a reminder of my inabilities.

In the garden is a great introduction to the diversity in your own backyard. It looks at what you can find living underground, on the plants or in the trees before introducing us to the most-sighted creatures found in New Zealand backyards. Aimed at 4-8 year-olds, the very clear, concise descriptions and amazing drawings are very engaging at any age.

I’m such a sucker for beautifully illustrated kid’s books. It’s kind of hard to go past a book with such a glorious illustration of a tui on the front cover. Barraud is a texture artist for Weta, so you do expect some top quality stuff here. And he delivers – the images are lovely, with such excellent attention to detail.

Too often nature books are about idyllic landscapes, the type a kid might get a field trip to a couple of times a year, if they’re lucky. I love this book because you can walk out the door and you’re there, able to see these natural systems in action and meet the characters doing their thing. “Let’s find one of those,” or conversely, “What’s that?” makes this book immediate, relevant and a must-have for Kiwi families.

In the garden is great, a follow-up to the equally wonderful At the beach by the same crew. (I’ve been buying the set as Christmas presents). Dear Publishers, can we please have more?

My family has spent a lot of time poring over this book. I’m sure yours will too.

Reviewed by Anna Butterfield

In the garden: Explore & discover the New Zealand backyard
by Gillian Candler, illustrated by Ned Barraud
Published by Craig Potton Press
ISBN 9781927213025