The Night Gardener

The Night Gardener
Written and Illustrated by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

Publisher’s Summary:
One day, William discovers that the tree outside his window has been sculpted into a wise owl. In the following days, more topiaries appear, and each one is more beautiful than the last. Soon, William’s gray little town is full of color and life. And though the mysterious night gardener disappears as suddenly as he appeared, William—and his town—are changed forever.

Primary Source Pairing:
The magical masterpiece that is The Night Gardener sparks the imagination of any reader. We see Grimloch Lane through William’s eyes at the beginning of the story, and as each new topiary is created, we also see Grimloch Lane change through William’s eyes. The Night Gardener is spreading happiness and joy through his clipping and pruning of trees and shrubs. We the readers feel the happiness and joy, too, with the turning of each page of this book. The art of topiary has been around for hundreds of years. Skilled gardeners are able to shape and train living trees and plants to grow into magnificent creations. For this primary source pairing, invite students to closely look at an image of a gardener standing next to a topiary in the mid-1920s in France. The slight resemblance of the Night Gardener from the book and the man in this image is purely coincidental and perhaps begs the question if the Fan Brothers used primary sources as their inspiration for this book. Additionally, invite students to compare and contrast the illustrations at the beginning of the book and the end of the book and discuss how the characters and Grimloch Lane changed.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What other details can you see?
  • How does this photograph connect to what you read and saw in the book The Night Gardener?

Credits:
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
“Gardener standing alongside shrub trimmed into shape of a rooster, in garden at Villa Trianon, France” photograph: Library of Congress