#Bookreview: In My Garden, Kate Mayes (author), Tamsin Ainslie (illus.), Harper Collins, August 2023.


In our gardens are where we belong.

Planting, watching, growing, dreaming.

In our gardens something out of nothing comes.

Join children from around the world as they share their gardens, from blossoming flowers in Japan to the waterside of Malawi, the frozen landscape of Iceland to the bush tracks of Australia. These are the places they love and the places they belong. With uplifting lyrical words and stunning detailed pictures from bestselling duo, Kate Mayes and Tamsin Ainslie.


This delightful book written by Kate Mayes and illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie entices the reader with its luscious cover, beautiful endpapers with botanical detail, native birds and wildlife. This is the duo’s second collaboration after Count my Christmas Kisses and Kate’s ninth picture book.

Kate’s lyrical writing really evokes a sense of place in each page. The opening pages transport the reader into a Japanese garden filled with ‘blossoms, bonsai firs and chrysanthemums’ and, like the birds she describes, it feels like we are flying across the gardens of the world with a bird’s eye view. It’s a clever device not to reveal each country and she lets the reader discover the places for themselves and guess along the way, which is such a wonderful way for young readers to learn about different countries and cultures.

Tamsin’s illustrations capture the minutiae in every spread and include native plants and flowers as well as the wildlife. Colourful tulips and crocus contrast the more sombre image of the sky lit up with bombs in Syria, ‘The night sky lights up, fire against the hills’.  I enjoyed the contrast between the frozen landscapes of Iceland, where Freyja is bundled up in layers and braving the snow with her sheepdog at her side. The sheep and horses huddled together for warmth. In contrast, to Franciso’s garden in a desert landscape in America filled with, ‘Ocotillo, thorny and brittle, stretches skywards bursting red after a little rain’. Tamsin cleverly uses colour with a cool blue and green palette for the river and coastal spreads and a more reddish burnished tone for the desert and hotter climes.

The last page reveals where each person lives, and Tamsin includes some more plant and animal illustrations from each place. The penultimate page, combining all the characters and landscapes, is such a joy and the words: ‘in our gardens something out of nothing comes, and we help turn the world into something new’, brings a sense of hope as well as the cycles of life.  I would really recommend this book as a feast for the senses and a rewarding read for curious readers both young and old.

Review by Gemma Creegan.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: