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  • One Small Garden
  • Written by Barbara Nichol
    Illustrated by Barry Moser
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780887766879
  • Our Price: $9.95
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One Small Garden

Written by Barbara NicholAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Barbara Nichol
Illustrated by Barry MoserAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Barry Moser

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In One Small Garden, Barbara Nichol brings together stories, memories, and botany to create a book that is as unique and lush as a summer garden. Here, plants from all over the world live and eventually die. Ants, raccoons, and a stray cat cross paths with a lost cockatoo who originated thousands of miles away. Stories and memories of people share space in the garden too.

This is the perfect book for those who understand the enchantment and the wild-at-heart nature of the primmest garden. This is a book to treasure for the whole family.

From the Hardcover edition.



The Raccoon Family

TEN YEARS AGO, in the early morning, there would often be raccoons roaming the garden. This was at dawn, when most people are still asleep.

Raccoons go about their business at night. They leave their homes after dark and go out to accomplish the things they need to, to carry on their lives: to eat and to survive. Because, for the most part, we do these things by day, we don’t often see raccoons. It’s easy to forget they’re all around us, living with us in the city, so nearby.

In the very early morning, though, the raccoons would sometimes dawdle in the gardens on their way home to sleep. They would stop on the roof of a garage next to the garden – a flat roof covered by a vine.

The vine still grows there and now covers the whole roof. It’s a Virginia creeper. A Virginia creeper vine grows very large and comes out with blue-black berries in the fall.

The littlest raccoons would take their time in the Virginia creeper, picking through the leaves and berries. The grown raccoons would wait for the little ones to come along. When the young raccoons had caught up, the raccoon family would climb down the side of a tall tree at the corner of the garage, the big raccoons going first.

The little raccoons would grope about the trunk before beginning the climb down to the fence that led them home. They were nervous about climbing straight down. The grown raccoons would wait. It was a short climb down the tree – only about three feet – but straight down.

Then, in a slow line, the family would travel along the fence top: big and small, identical shapes in different sizes, round and peaceful, not knowing they were being watched, five or six raccoons in silhouette.

And then they would just seem to disappear. One moment they would be there on the fence and then they would be gone completely, disappearing in the leaves. It was impossible to catch the moment when they left the garden.

They seemed to vanish into the pink air.

A Line of Ants

TEN YEARS AGO there was a maple tree just inside the gate. The tree was very tall – as tall as a three- or four-story house. Its limbs reached up high and spread out over the garden. In the summer it sheltered the garden under green leaves. Maple leaves have a shape scientists call palmate, like the underside of someone’s open hand. The maple leaf has five broad points for fingers.

One visitor to the garden called the maple tree the guardian of the garden. It seemed to protect the garden under its boughs.

If the tree hadn’t been right beside the gate where people come and go, no one would have noticed the line of ants going about their business on the bark – hundreds of them, making their way around the base of the tree and up the trunk. They would disappear into the bark. They would disappear like the raccoons.

They always seemed to be there, orderly and busy, hard at work.

The store that sells young plants and tools for gardens is called a nursery, a word we use for rooms where human babies sleep. At the nursery they explained that the ants had made a home inside the tree. They said that this could harm the tree. They recommended a powder to be sprinkled in their path.

“This powder won’t harm any other animals,” they said, “because it isn’t poisonous. It’s deadly, though, to ants. The powder’s made of sharp and tiny particles. The ants will touch the particles. They’ll be scratched and injured and they’ll die.”

The Poisoned Gardener
This is a story about a boy who grew up in Vancouver.

WHEN RICHARD PRINCE was small, his next-door neighbor was a man who loved to tend his garden. Every evening after work – spring, summer, and fall – and all day long on weekends, the neighbor could be found behind his house, doing what one needs to, to have a handsome garden. He watered the plants, he pulled up the weeds, he added fertilizer to the soil. And he sprayed the plants with poisons. He did this to rid the garden of insects and diseases. He did this to rid the garden of pests.

In the neighbor’s garden the poisons worked their magic. The apples on the apple tree were round and red and perfect; the grass, an even patch of emerald green. The bushes were not powdery with fungus. The roses bore no spots.

It was like a garden in a picture book – like a vision in a fairy tale – and so it stayed for years. It might still be perfect, although this is unlikely, things changing as they do. In any case, the story ended long ago.

The gardener never did grow old. Instead, he became pale and thin in middle age, and died of a disease the experts say comes from breathing in the sorts of poisons he’d been spraying in his garden. The gardener next door had rid the garden of pests. He’d sprayed to make the insects and diseases vanish. And then he vanished too.

Plants Use Poisons

GARDENERS use poisons to protect their plants, and plants use poisons too. Lilies of the valley are poisonous to eat. Daffodil bulbs are poisonous. Animals will leave them be.

And plants have other ways that they defend themselves. There are plants that protect themselves with bitter taste. These plants are safe as well, at least from being eaten.

There are plants that send out chemicals into the soil, so that other plants can’t grow close by. Black walnut trees do this. They don’t have to share their water, food, and space with other plants.

Roses protect themselves with thorns. Poison ivy protects itself by delivering its famous itchy rash. There are evergreens that give off chemicals to keep other plants and maybe insects off as well. This explains the smell of Christmas trees.

Animals use such things as teeth and claws, horns and stingers. We protect ourselves with guns and gates and laws and lies, and by running away.
Barbara Nichol|Barry Moser

About Barbara Nichol

Barbara Nichol - One Small Garden

Photo © Tess Steinkollk

Barbara Nichol is an award-winning author and documentary maker, and a long time contributor to the CBC radio documentary series “Ideas.”Her book Dippers was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, and Biscuits in the Cupboard won the Mr. Christie’s Book Award. She is also well known as the author and director of the Juno award-winning original recording of Beethoven Lives Upstairs, and is the author of the book by the same title. Her film Home for Blind Women won the Genie for Best Short Film, and she was nominated for an Emmy for her work with Sesame Street. She has worked extensively in television and radio. Barbara Nichol has published four books with Tundra, including Safe and Sound, Trunks All Aboard: An Elephant ABC, One Small Garden, and Dippers, and the first volume of her retellings, Tales of Don Quixote. She is also a contributing editor of Walrus Magazine.

About Barry Moser

Barry Moser - One Small Garden
National Book Award-winning artist Barry Moser is the acclaimed illustrator of more than two hundred books for adults and children. Other books illustrated by him include In the Beginning by Virginia Hamilton, which was a Newbery Honor Book. He undertook a monumental project for the millennium, a fully illustrated edition of the King James Bible.


“The delicate watercolors provide fertile ground for the urban legends, gardening lore and tender tales about humanity’s relationship with nature.”
Publishers Weekly

“…a lovely volume with a leisurely pace.… A small jewel of a book for readers, both adults and children.…”

From the Hardcover edition.

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