Miss Jaster’s Garden by illustrator turned author N. M. Bodecker is one of those picture books that every family library should have. The illustration has a daydream-like quality with soft watercolors, the story line is adorable and the kind that children love to giggle at, and the writing is charming and intelligent. If Anne Shirley-Blythe (Anne of Green Gables series) were to write a picture book for her children, I think she would write something just like this.
“In the middle of the garden lived Miss Jaster in ‘Villa Pax,’ a square, whitewashed house with flowerpots on the front steps.”
Miss Jaster is a sweet older Victorian lady who lives by the seaside in a regal house called “Sandgate-On-Sea.” The estate is situated on perfectly manicured grounds resplendent with gardens, mulberry and juniper trees, a sundial, fishpond, and birdbath. And, a friendly hedgehog.
“In a corner of the garden, overlooking the sea at Sandgate, lived a small, spiky animal called a hedgehog. Hedgie for short.”
“The two did not see much of each other, because Hedgie was by nature nocturnal, and Miss Jaster was not. But occasionally they met, just after sunset, when they both enjoyed strolling the garden… Through the open door he could hear Miss Jaster at the piano, her fingers fluttering up and down the keyboard, picking out little tunes as sweet as April showers. Hedgie liked being played for while he had his milk, and Miss Jaster enjoyed having someone to play for. This way they lived happily for a while.”
The beautiful scene is set: the backdrop is exquisite, the characters are charming, life is lovely. Until the unfortunate (but not too serious) accident when the elderly and rather more than a bit nearsighted Miss Jaster accidently plants flowers on Hedgie’s back. While her friend is napping in the garden bed, Miss Jaster prepares her flower bed not noticing that she is planting and watering the little hedgehog.
The rest of the story is funny and sweet. Our characters do find a solution for their predicament but only after some comical misunderstanding.
The large-size format of the picture book allows for generous illustration balanced with high quality writing.
This is a most worthy picture book from Purple House Press for boys and girls alike!
I also want to share this bio of N.M. Bodecker from the dust jacket: