Review: Isabella’s Garden by Glenda Millard and Rebecca Cool.

I met Glenda Millard some time ago, at a writers event at Stoneman’s Bookroom in Castlemaine ( a lovely bookshop by the way.) Glenda had us all in stitches as she told tales about how she grew up in the country and her journey to becoming a writer. Glenda was a great storyteller in every sense of the word and I looked forward to reading more of her work.

Isabella’s garden is set to the rythm of The House That Jack Built. It begins with seeds ‘that sleep in the soil all dark and deep,’ and continues through the plant life cycle….but in such a beautiful way. The clouds ‘cry the rain,’ the sun ‘kisses the clouds,’. The shoots grow and as the season progresses flowers ‘waltz with the wind,’ chicks hatch and birds sing. As the seasons change, the leaves turn crimson and gold and then to winter, where Jack Frost ‘encrusts the garden with glisten and glimmer.’ There are some books that just beg to be read aloud and this one does. It’s not hard to see why it one the speech pathology book of the year award.

Rebecca Cool’s illustrations are vibrant and each page has a sense of movement, with a breeze seeming to blow from page to page. She uses a mixture of acryllic paints and collage. I’m cheating here and have looked on the Walker books website (I’m not arty you see!) I was looking for the right words to describe the illustrations and there it was ‘reminiscent of European folk art.’ On a simple emotional level, they made me feel happy.

I can see this linking in well with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and I’m sure that the schools involved in this program are already familiar with this story. For those not familiar with the program, I suggest you take a look. I had a great afternoon at East Bentleigh Primary School last year, when I visited the school to write an article on their free range chickens. The children took me on a tour of their garden and showed me the weeks menu and the tasty treats they were cooking, based on the produce they had grown.

Seed germination, seasonal change, growth and life cycles are the science themes involved in this book, with lots of opportunity for cross-curriular literacy and art activities.

Walker haven’t produced classroom notes for Isabella’s Garden but you can find out more about the story behind the book on their website here. You’ll also find a  colouring sheet to download. You could perhaps try a little collage too.

Doing a quick hunt around on-line, I also found this link to  a jigsaw puzzle, an on-line plant part labelling exercise and matching exercises about seasons. It’s part of a website by Irene Buckley, who has produced resources relating to literacy for a number of books.

You might like to read a much more sophisticated review than mine at the Book Chook…where you’ll also find links to some activites involving germination of seeds and gardening activities.

Below are links to the National Curriculum, where it fits nicely into both the Biological Science and Earth Space Science sub-strands in the early years and also the Science Inquiry Skills strand.

Biological sciences (Foundation)

  1. Living things have basic needs, including food and water (ACSSU002)

Biological sciences (Year 1)

  1. Living things have a variety of external features (ACSSU017)
  2. Living things live in different places where their

Biological sciences (Year 2)

  1. Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves (ACSSU030)

Earth and Space sciences (Foundation)

  1. Daily and seasonal changes in our environment, including the weather, affect everyday life (ACSSU004)

Earth and Space sciences (Year 1)

  1. Observable changes occur in the sky and landscape

You can also tick off the science inquiry strand, with experiments

Questioning and predicting
Planning and conducting
Processing and analysing data and information

Isabella’s Garden

Author: Glenda Millard

Illustrator: Rebecca Cool

Walker Books, 2010

ISBN 9781921150333


2010: CBCA Awards

Book of the Year – Picture Book Short List 2010 – Shortlist – Honour Book

2010: Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards

Children’s Book Mary Ryan’s Award – Shortlist

2010: Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards

Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards 2010 Best Book for Language Development: Lower Primary 5-8 years – Winner



Filed under Uncategorized

4 responses to “Review: Isabella’s Garden by Glenda Millard and Rebecca Cool.

  1. Cat, reading your blog for a catch up and you had me snorting cold coffee here! “Sophisticated”? Not hardly.

    I love the way you’re linking literature to the National Curriculum strands. And love that you’re another Cool fan!!!

    • Nice to have another writer, reviewer, teacher type person comment! See…you are sophisticated. I’d never have thought to snort cold coffee…down in Melbourne we only drink it, lol.
      I also love ‘For All Creatures,’ just more work to find science links, although it’s a beautiful book.

  2. Thanks Sue, I’ll chase it up. Claire and I are compiling a list for the presentation we’re making at STAVCON in November.

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