Review of Memory Garden

Memory Garden Memory Garden
by Zohreh Ghahremani; illus. by Susie Ghahremani
Primary    Godwin/Holt    40 pp.
2/24    9781250843036    $18.99

Memory and connections with the “old country” can be important parts of the experience for immigrant families. In this story, a young girl helps her Iranian (as identified in the back matter) grandmother, Nana, tend her garden, while relishing “the stories she tells me about a garden she knows far away.” As the two plant and water geraniums, Nana shares tales of “back home,” even though the girl doesn’t “know where ‘back home’ is.” There were tall cypress trees, fragrant jasmine, lilac, and hyacinth; there was a fishpond, and fruit trees including cherry, mulberry, and pomegranate. Gouache illustrations on vellum represent a modest Western garden in contrast with the lusher, bursting garden of Nana’s memories on the facing page. Paisley, floral, and other distinctly traditional Persian designs adorn the pages in saffron yellows, minty greens, and radish-y reds. These embellishments make a visual connection between Nana’s new home and her “back home” memories; the book’s playful endpapers also capture this design aesthetic. In this gentle tale, stories are like plants that grow in the girl’s imagination, taking root to bloom into cultural pride and intergenerational connection. Author and illustrator notes discuss the importance of gardens for many Iranians as well as the importance of cultural transmission.

Pubissue-From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam

Calling Caldecott co-author Julie Hakim Azzam is the assistant director of the MFA program in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She holds a PhD in literary and cultrual studies, with a specialization in comparative contemporary postcolonial literature from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Southeast Asia. Her most recent work focuses on children's literature, stories about immigrants and refugees, and youth coping with disability.

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