The Extraordinary Gardener – Book Review

There’s something magical about growing things with children, and that’s the idea at the heart of this book. A whimsical tale of an inner city boy who transforms his urban landscape with plants, The Extraordinary Gardner is also a story about reaching out to the people around you, sharing ideas and friendship and building a community that’s as beautiful as the flowers they grow.

Read on to take a look inside!

Children's picture book The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton
The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton

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The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Broughton

Page from The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton - view of a grey city landscape
Totally bereft of nature, Joe’s world is dull and grey.

Joe lives in a tower block, surrounded by other such buildings in the middle of a city. The world around him is a monotonous urban grey, lacking even the slightest hint of colour, and bereft of anything natural. So Joe loses himself in the world of his imagination, creating a world inside his head that is full of colour and wonder and beauty.

Pages from The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton
In his imagination, Joe’s world is a beautiful and fantastical place.

Until one day, Joe makes a plan to bring some of that colour and life into the real world. He hunts down a single seed, plants it out on his balcony, and waits for it to grow. As a first time gardener, he’s disappointed when nothing happens straight away. Giving up on his idea, he heads back inside and back to the imaginative world he made.

But outside on the balcony, that seed has begun to sprout. And so begins Joe’s garden. Once Joe discovers his fledgling plant, he begins to plant more and more until he has a a beautiful oasis of nature right there on his balcony.

Page from The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton. An apple tree seedling grows bigger.
Happening so slowly that at first Joe doesn’t notice… but change is coming!

Community Spirit

One of the lovely things about this book is that it’s not just about Joe’s garden, it’s also about his community. Seeing how his new friends love his plants, he begins to give them away. Sharing seeds and plants with people all around, Joe starts a horticultural revolution, and by doing so brings strangers together to make a better world.

The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton
Making the world around him beautiful inspires others too.

Soon it’s not just Joe’s balcony that’s transformed. The grey and dull, ink-splattered urban wasteland has become a literal jungle. Colourful plants spring up everywhere, fantastical creatures roam in and out of view, and the boring city, along with its inhabitants, is forever changed.

The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton
A gloriously huge jungle of colour and life has filled the urban landscape.

This is such a beautifully illustrated book. My children loved the way colour crept across the pages, and the final fold-out reveal is really stunning. There are lots of little details for kids to spot, too, which is always fun.

Yet it is the story itself that makes this book special. The message at the heart of it is that children have the power to change the world around them. And that wonderful things can be achieved through kindness, sharing, and imagination. I can’t think of a better lesson to teach them.

By the same author and illustrator:

Rock by Rock: The Fantastical Garden of NEK Chand

By Jennifer Bradbury and Sam Broughton

The real-life story of a man who created a garden out stones, broken glass and concrete, and rubbish from the streets, in memory of the village he had been forced to leave during the partition of India.

This is an amazing and deeply moving story, possibly for slightly old children.

It makes a wonderful companion piece to Sam Broughton’s solo book, The Extraordinary Gardener, as both touch on the transformation of urban environments through nature.

Hello Mr Dinosaur

By Sam Broughton

Hello Mr Whale!

By Sam Broughton

Hello Mrs Bear!

By Sam Broughton

Hello Mrs Elephant!

By Sam Broughton

Hello Mr Tiger!

By Sam Broughton

Picture Books with Diverse Characters

Have you seen my full list of the best 23 picture books with diverse characters? Just like The Extraordinary Gardener, all of these picture books feature black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) boys as main characters. Something that’s as rare as proverbial hen’s teeth in children’s books, and a problem I’ve written about here.

Check out the list to find out more about our favourites, and take a peek inside. If you like the look of this book, I’m sure you’ll find some others to love there too!

Pile of 23 picture books that star a BAME boy as the main character.
Our favourite picture books featuring BAME boy main characters.
Children's Picture book 'The Extraordinary Gardener' by Sam Boughton
This lovely book tells the story of a little boy who changes his world to something better, starting with a little seed.

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