Review of Celia Planted a Garden: The Story of Celia Thaxter and Her Island Garden

Celia Planted a Garden: The Story of Celia Thaxter and Her Island Garden Celia Planted a Garden: The Story of Celia Thaxter and Her Island Garden
by Phyllis Root and Gary D. Schmidt; illus. by Melissa Sweet
Primary, Intermediate    Candlewick    40 pp.    g
5/22    978-1-5362-0429-2    $18.99

Largely forgotten today, American writer Celia Laighton Thaxter enjoyed a significant literary career in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Both her life and her writing revolved around Maine’s Appledore Island, and it is here that this picture-book biography takes root. Thaxter comes alive as a gardener from her earliest years (when the family lived on White Island), coaxing blooms to life amid the rocks, with vivid colors punctuating Root and Schmidt’s narrative: “Pink morning glories opened to the sun, and Celia found green moss and purple starfish in rocky pools.” Sweet’s illustrations follow the text’s lead, depicting the main character ankle-deep in a tide pool surrounded by bright, stylized flowers in purples, pinks, oranges, and reds. Both Celia and the island backdrop are dressed in muted gray-greens, causing the colors to pop all the more. Readers learn that Celia’s lighthouse-keeper father moved the family to Appledore Island and built a hotel where “artists and writers [came] to stay”; after she married and moved to the mainland, that network f­acilitated her career. Hand-lettered excerpts of Thaxter’s writings—both poetry and prose—­frequently appear in the margins, artfully commenting on the narrative. The telling is elliptical; readers who wonder at the abrupt disappearance of Thaxter’s husband must comb through the two-page timeline, printed in a tiny font, to learn of their estrangement. But Thaxter’s devotion to her titular garden shines bright. Also appended are a biographical note and a bibliography.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith is the children’s editor at Kirkus Reviews. She has served on a bunch of award committees and on the ALSC Board but she speaks for none of them, nor does she speak for this magazine, though it’s nice enough to print her opinions.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.