Isabella’s Garden

Isabelllas Garden

Last year, my favourite CBCA Shortlisted book was Isabella’s Garden, by the extremely talented Glenda Millard, with gorgeous illustrations by Rebecca Cool.

Earlier this week I was reading the latest blog post from 2KM and 2KJ about their Book Week celebrations. Now, Book Week is probably my favourite calendar event at school – and has been since I was in primary school. I remember many years of trying to decide on which book character I was going to dress up as for the Book Parade and now as a primary school teacher, I get to do it all again!

(This year I dressed up as Sunday Chutney – apparently there’s a photo floating around, so I’ll need to find it and post it!)

But, going back to 2KM and 2KJ’s blog post, I left a comment for them about how my class would be celebrating Book Week – with lots of reading and lots of art activities and lots of celebrating learning. And I was talking about some of the books we’d be reading as well – not just the 2011 shortlisted books, but also some from last year – including the aforementioned Isabella’s Garden.

I received a lovely comment back from Molly, asking who the author for Isabella’s Garden was and I was happy to reply, and with a bit about why I really adore this particular book.

I’ll even go so far as to say that this book is probably up there with some of my all-time favourite picture-books. I just love the language that Glenda Millard uses to conjure up such wonderful mental images – the repetitiveness of  the phrases she uses and how it depicts the change in the seasons and the life cycle of the plants in Isabella’s garden.

Last year, my prep class loved the book, and I was even happier to be sharing it with my class this year, because I know how much pleasure students can get out of hearing the story – and joining in when they realise that they know the words to the story. It’s quite lyrical in that sense.

These are the flowers that waltz with the wind that ruffles the buds, all velvety-skinned that swelled the shoots that sought the sun that kissed the clouds that cried the rain that soaked the seeds that slept in the soil all dark and deep, in Isabella’s garden.

Recreating Isabella’s Garden:

And, to follow up the reading, my students and I talked about the change in the seasons – and what happens to a garden over the course of a year. Then we talked about how each season can be represented by different combinations of colour (which prompted us to go back to the story):

  • Summer: yellow, orange, green, bright blue
  • Autumn: orange, brown
  • Winter: pale blue, white
  • Spring: bight green, pink, orange, red

Following this we made a very simple paper collage – with 2 rules:

  1. No scissors allowed!
  2. No pencils allowed!

Students created a scene from the season of their choice – a landscape –  using paper ripping techniques and their imaginations.

They were quite apprehensive when I told them they weren’t allowed to pre-draw their images – but once they realised that they were capable of tearing the paper and creating a picture using small bits and pieces they spent quite a bit of time putting together the ‘perfect’ scene. Not a single student complained that they couldn’t do it, or that they didn’t know what to do – and that is the mark of a successful lesson, where everyone can achieve their best work.

Isabella's Garden

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Do you have a favourite picturebook that inspires you?

Do you have a favourite book activity that you would like to share? (I’d love to hear it!)

6 thoughts on “Isabella’s Garden

  1. Oh dear, how to settle on one favourite picture book that inspires me.

    Have you ever read Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin? It tells the story of the first person to successfully photgraph a single snowflake. Reading this book inpired me to find out so much more and I now have a collection of books about snow and snowflakes.

    Another favourite would have to be Wombat Stew by Marcia K Vaughan. The rollicking tale unfolds beautifully and I love the ending. I love using this story for paper collage with similar rules to those you have blogged about – creating wombats by tearing the shapes needed.


    Mrs S


    • @Mrs S,

      Thanks so much for your comment!

      I know – it’s so difficult to choose only one. In reality, every time I read a book to my preps, I pretty much preface it with “This is one of my favourite books” or “This is written by one of my favourite authors” – because I choose books that I love to read. (They’re only now beginning to call me on it!)

      I haven’t read Snowflake Bentley but I’ll definitely put it on my ‘to read’ list. And Wombat Stew is almost something of a ‘required reading’ text! I’ve built up quite the collection of wombat stories – Wombat Stew, Diary of a Wombat, Baby Wombat’s Diary, Sebastian Lives In a Hat and Wombat Divine.

      All the best,


  2. @ Stefanie,

    What a great post!

    Thank you for meantioning me and my class.

    I might try and find Isabella’s Garden at the library.

    My favourite picture story book is Isabella’s secret.

    I love your post again it is wonderful.

    From your pal,


    • @ Molly,

      Thank you for such a lovely comment!

      I hope you like Isabella’s Garden, if you find it in the library.

      I haven’t read Isabella’s Secret, but I’ll have a look for it at my school library – I’m always on the look-out for new picturebooks!

      From your friend,


  3. Hi,
    It is something of a challenge to pin a book down as being my favourite picture book. I’ve been introduced to the Wally the Chimp books, which kids respond well to. I love the pictures in ” what the Sky Knows”, but I think one that I always love reading is a book I came across, that I love reading and kids always ask to reread it is ,” Once upon a golden apple”. It’s a book that jumbles up all the fairy tales. I’ve always planned to do something with it…
    Thanks for your post . It’s interesting finding out what you do and what your kids respond too


    • @ Kate,

      I grew up reading the Wally the Chimp books, and to this day they’re some of my favourite books. Anthony Browne’s stories and illustrations are certainly attention-grabbing for students. I’ve seen “What the Sky Knows,” but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read the book – but I agree that the illustrations are lovely.

      I haven’t heard of “Once upon a golden apple,” but it’s one I’ll definitely add to my list of books to check out. (Especially since our Integrated unit of work next term incorporates fairytales!)

      Thank you for your comments – I’m glad there are readers who find this interesting!

      All the best,


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