Lydia Grace is a little girl from the country who gardens with her grandmother on her parents’ farm. There is joy and color and beauty in her world. But her peaceful, flower-ful life is suddenly interrupted; because it’s 1935, and there is no work. She is sent to live with her uncle, a baker in the city, and the entire story is told through the letters she sends. We discover that her uncle never smiles. But we also discover that she is an incurable optimist, and she sets a goal to make her uncle smile. In the process of trying, however, she brings joy and beauty and color – and smiles – to the people of that gray city.
What amazes me is how much of the story is told by pictures, and how the character of the uncle is so very fully developed, almost exclusively through the artwork. The author also knows how to use silence; there are several very poignant pages with no words at all. On those pages the story is advanced by the art – powerfully. Be sure to contrast the page when Lydia Grace arrives, a tiny spot of color in a gray world, to when she leaves. Note what stays the same, but also what changes. These pages, as with others in the book, are worth lingering over and studying.
Get this book for your home library. Discuss it with your children and you will have some wonderful conversations. The positive attitude in the midst of trial that Lydia Grace demonstrates, the tenderness of those whose lives she touches, the hardships of the depression, the family love, and the exquisite pastel pictures make this book a gold-mine.
Then get a packet of seeds in Lydia Grace’s honor, and fill a window-box!