By Sarah Garland
The mother in Doing the Garden is not me. She is super relaxed and they all fall asleep on the kitchen floor at the end. I, in contrast, am mainly tense and have to admit that sleeping on the floor might not always be advisable under health and safety regulations over at ours. Also, I go to quite impressive lengths (tickling, embarrassing singing, provision of unsuitable snacks) to ensure that H stays awake until I have him ensconced in his cot and can drink tea alone in silence during that most sacred of all times, nap time. I have a feeling that if the Doing the Garden mother and I met, she might go on a lot about baby-wearing, baby-led weaning and cloth nappies. All worthy topics, none interesting (to me).
Yet H and I love this book and the others we have read by Sarah Garland. Garland is great at depicting that feeling of being in a lovely mother-child bubble, in which mundane experiences like going to the garden centre are full of joy, and in which you are usually a public spectacle due to various messes, impractical amounts of equipment and loudly surreal toddlerish conversations. I love that at the checkout the baby is wielding an enormous stone garden gnome, the mother is whacking a bystander with a large tree, and the shop assistant is scowling with that older-woman disapproval we mothers know so well.
The illustrations are brilliant: they tell most of the story, with just a few sentences of text. I still haven’t tired of looking at the kitchen on the last page. A beautiful big Aga, a toy helicopter, wellie boots, cat and dog, dying plant. It speaks of a cosy existence in which the reading child can imagine complete safety and happy day after happy day.
H comment: ‘that lady doin’ the numbers, Mummy’ (yes he has located the only machine in the entire book, the till at the garden centre, and we have analysed its function extensively).