Each of these recent picture books offers young readers a hint of something extraordinary. Relationships — between generations and between humans and the natural world — are pivotal in all three stories, and shifts in these relationships mark turning points in the characters’ lives. Although supernatural magic is hinted at in one of the books, it is the more ordinary magic of everyday life that proves most potent.
Roses for Gita, a sequel to Lights for Gita, involves a young immigrant girl’s quest to feel at home in her new country. She misses her grandmother Naniji terribly, and wants to plant a garden just like the one Naniji grows in India. Mr. Flinch, the old man next door, seems at first a fierce enemy until Gita hears him playing the violin in his garden and suddenly understands that his bluster hides a more sensitive nature. Gita’s gift of wind chimes seals their friendship, and Mr. Flinch promises to help her plant the First Rose in their new garden. Although this is a simple story, it highlights the magical way in which a simple gesture can transform a hostile neighbour into a friend. There is also a clear sense of the connections Gita discerns between her beloved Naniji and Mr. Flinch, who both share a deep love of gardens. Flowers form a bridge of understanding between Mr. Flinch and Gita, whose grandmother believes that flowers grow better when they are shared with others.