In 2008, I received my first contracts for illustrating picture books. The largest (in length of time and actual painting size) was one for Alma Little Publishing. And just a couple of weeks ago, I received my copy of the book in the mail: Cathy’s Animal Garden: Enter at Your Own Risk.
Cathy’s Animal Garden follows two boys, Henry and Andy, as they wander through Cathy’s garden in search of Henry’s homerun ball. Signs throughout the garden warn of the animals there: tigers, elephants, dragons, spiders, monkeys, leopards, foxes, and more. The boys are frightened but continue on — until they meet Cathy. She explains to them that they are in her animal garden, a garden made of plants and flowers with animal names.
This was such a fun book to illustrate. I love painting animals, and this garden is full of them, even if they’re in the boys’ imaginations. Because children will sometimes study the paintings in a picture book, I also added lots of other animals for them to find — ones they actually might find in a garden. They can spot a turtle, a chipmunk, a worm, a caterpillar, a ladybug, a lizard — so many creatures call a garden home! To add a little more fun, I also included a dragonfly in every illustration.
The author of Cathy’s Animal Garden, Stacy Tornio, is the editor of Birds and Blooms , a magazine featuring information and photographs of songbirds and flowers. Stacy is also a master gardener, and her passion for gardening shines through. The end pages of the book contain references about the different types of “animal” plants, as well as a planting zone map for the United States.
Of course, I’d have to recommend this book, but for more than the obvious reason. It’s a great starting point for any child interested in gardening and could be easily incorporated into a unit study. Actually, one of the best recommendations I’ve heard has been from my daughter, Lillie. After reading through the story together, she asked, “When can we plant an animal garden?”