Beautifully illustrated in graphite pencil and inks, The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers is the author and illustrator’s debut work. The Fan Brothers are comprised of illustrator Terry Fan and writer Eric Fan who make their home in Toronto, Canada. The Night Gardener follows a young boy, William, and his home in Grimloch Orphanage on Grimloch Lane. William is the first to notice a new topiary in the shape of a giant owl that is created overnight in front of the orphanage. The next night down the street a cat appears carved out of two trees right next to each other. Each night a new masterpiece appears and the townspeople begin gathering together to celebrate this public art. William stays up very late one night at a neighborhood party when he spies the night gardener, heading off for his night’s work. He could use William’s help as the next project is to transform all the trees in the public park. And although the leaves change colors and fall later in the year, by the next summer the feeling of community togetherness lingers and the town is never the same. Neither, it turns out, is William.
The artwork in this book tells as much of a story as the sparse text does. The first page shows a sepia toned street in the town, with all the townspeople looking down and going about their business alone. The night scenes contrast beautifully in deep and calming blues and greens. The first topiary stands out in the daylight, not only because of its unusual shape, but because it’s the only colorful part of that page’s illustration. As expected, the town is rendered in more and more color as the people come together until the last page, which is shown at night again with William tending to his own small creation.
You can get the book reviewed here and more great titles to watch, read, listen to, or play with at the Port Library at 1718 N. Hersey in Beloit.