The Gardener Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Civil Society
by Sarah Stewart - A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, community, and service to others.

In The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, little Lydia Grace shows her love for her gruff uncle through her extraordinary talent with growing things. The story provides a great lesson for our children that giving time and talent can be more powerful than money. The reader quickly grows to love generous and determined Lydia through her letters to her family. Through repeated readings, readers can focus on her selflessness, bravery, love of gardening, and joy in simple pleasures. With such a rich story and expressive illustrations, one reading isn’t enough.

Before Reading

ASK: What do flowers and gardens mean to you and to other people?

SHOW: Compare the illustration on the front cover of the book to the illustration on the inside front cover. Talk about the differences and similarities.

CONNECT: Talk about your experience with flowers and gardens. If the child doesn’t have experience with gardening, talk about the sights, smells and feelings when walking by flowers and gardens in public areas. This book is about flowers and family; let’s find out what the connection is.

During Reading

ASK: How do you think Lydia Grace, her parents, and her grandma feel about her going to the city to stay with her uncle? What is it like for her to come to the strange city and to her uncle’s house?

SHOW: Notice the little changes to Uncle Jim’s house and bakery. On each page you see more evidence of Lydia Grace’s love of flowers, light, and color.

CONNECT: If Uncle Jim doesn’t smile, how does Lydia Grace know he likes something?

After Reading

ASK: Lydia Grace plants flowers because she loves doing it, but how does it affect the people around her? How is her work an action for the common good?

SHOW: Look at the final picture of Uncle Jim hugging Lydia Grace. How do you think Lydia Grace has changed him? What do you think will be different for him now?

CONNECT: What do you love doing? How do you think you affect others when you do it? Can you share your time and talent for the common good?


  1. Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good. Discuss the book from a philanthropic point of view by asking the following questions: How does Lydia Grace give of her time, talent, and treasure? How was she philanthropic? Were any other characters philanthropic? How could we do something philanthropic related to gardening and flowers?
  2. There are many types of gardens and reasons that people grow gardens. Explore the different types and purposes of gardens and gardening. Look for information in books, at the library, on the Internet, and at local garden club, etc. Make lists, draw pictures, and write about what you learned. Discuss why gardens are important to the lives and health of people.
  3. Make a plan to plant a garden at your house or in a public space. Decide on a location, purpose, and type of garden. Things to consider:
      • How can we make this area look better?
      • What kinds of plants will grow in this area?
      • What will we do with the flowers or food when full grown?
      • Do we want to attract birds and butterflies, friends, and other gardeners?
      • How do we need to prepare the area for planting?
      • What tools and supplies do we need?
      • Do we need permission to do any of these things?
      • How do we maintain the garden over time?