The Night Gardener, by Terry and Eric Fan, is the story of a town where something magical is happening. Each night, a mysterious Night Gardener trims a tree into a wondrous creation—a cat, a bunny, a dragon. And then one extra special night, a little boy named William is invited to help!
The Night Gardener makes an excellent writing prompt for the classroom. After you read the book aloud, here are a few ways to use this beautiful picture book with your students:
1) What if each student in your class had the chance to become a night gardener? Challenge students to make a list of the tree creations they would wish to produce. In the book, trees are trimmed into animal shapes, but your students need not limit themselves to animals. What about a tree in the shape of a lollipop? A robot? A dress?
2) In The Night Gardener, the townspeople are changed by the beauty that the Night Gardener brings. Ask your students, “Other than trimming trees into fantastic shapes, what are other ways that you could beautify your neighborhood in the middle of the night?” Students can write their own ideas, which might range from picking up trash to painting happy faces on parking meters to planting flowers in vacant lots.
3) This book is written by two brothers. Ask your students to think about whether it would be easy or hard to work with a family member—a sibling, parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or cousin—to create a book, a painting, or another type of work of art. Ask each student to write about which family member he or she would like to collaborate with, and why.
4) Give students the chance to look closely at the illustrations in the book, and specifically at all of the townspeople. Do your students see people of varying races or ethnicities? Ask each student to write about why including diverse characters in picture books is important.
The Night Gardener reminds us that small actions can have big consequences, and that it only takes one person to change an entire town forever. Each one of your students can make a positive difference too!