The garden of broken things by Freya Blackwood

cover image

The house in Ardent Street has sad eyes. Children walk past quickly as if afraid of the old house, but not Sadie. She stops to talk to the cat and follows it into the undergrowth. Here she finds things from the past, in their final resting places, rusted and twisted with age. But the cat finds a lap, and Sadie sees a weary old woman sitting there. Sadie is not scared, she is intrigued and curious and sits next to the old woman and tells her all about her day at school. She brushes cobwebs from the woman’s face and tells her of her baby brother. She reads her home reader to her. And falls asleep on her lap. It becomes dark and the night air is cool and the bigger kids rush off home, remembering their chores and homework.

But the old woman remembers things from the past. She remembers the curiosity of children. She takes Sadie into the street, knowing her parents will be looking for her. But from then on the sad house in Ardent Street becomes a happy, joy filled place, one where the children are no longer scared, the house and garden now welcomes them. Sadie tells them abut the garden full of broken things just waiting for the children to enter and breath life into it.

The pencil and water colour illustrations give a romantic edge to the garden of broken things. It feels like a place where time has stopped, where the old woman is sitting waiting for Sadie to break the spell of loneliness and tell her of the modern world of a child.

The opening double page showing Ardent Street is enticing, encouraging children to recognise the features of a suburban street while developing stories of those who live there. And I love the images of the broken things littering the garden, ominous at the start, but a wonderful playground at the end. The images of the overgrown garden with tis tendrils of weeds and vines are mesmerising.

A wondrous tale of being curious, of listening to the stories of the elderly, readers will be able to tell their own stories of places in their suburb that give some feeling of unease, and of older people in their community who have a good story to tell and conversely, listen to theirs.

From award-winning creator Freya Blackwood this is a beautifully tender story about curiosity and the joy of listening between generations. Find out more about Freya and the wonderful books she has written and illustrated here.

Themes: Curiosity, Suburban life, Loneliness, Sharing.

Fran Knight