The Night Gardener: A Picture Book Review

The Night Gardener by The Fan BrothersWilliam doesn’t know what to think when the tree outside his window is transformed into an owl topiary overnight. Soon after more wonderful topiaries begin appearing in the neighborhood.

Eager to find out the secrets behind these wondrous creations, William sneaks out after dark to discover the night gardener at work. Soon, William begins working with the night gardener to create more beautiful trees and help change his town forever in The Night Gardener (2016) by The Fan Brothers (Eric and Terry Fan).

The Night Gardener makes full use of its large size with big full-page spreads of artwork throughout the book. Soft, washed out colors in the beginning of the book contrast sharply with the vivid greens used for each new topiary. The Fan Brothers even differentiate between day and night with a subtle blue hue overlaying each evening illustration.

The weight of color used throughout The Night Gardener also highlights the effect of each topiary on the town as more and more heavy color is used in each spread until, at the end of the story, the illustrations are full-color.

This is a charming picture book in the tradition of Grandpa Green by Lane Smith and The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. The arc of the story is reminiscent of Daniel Pinkwater’s classic The Big Orange Splot, another book that slowly brings color and individuality to a decidedly beige town.

The Night Gardener is a gorgeous debut. The Fans combine luxuriant, detailed illustrations with a whimsical story to create a picture book that is sure to be a hit with readers of all ages. A likely suspect for many best picture books lists later in the year.