Lulu Loves Flowers
written by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
(Alanna Books (UK), 2015)
Published in the US as Lola Plants a Garden (Charlesbridge, 2014)
Fans of the adorable Lulu series may at first glance think that the new Lulu Loves Flowers marks a new departure for Lulu from the book-oriented earlier titles (Lulu Loves the Library, Lulu Loves Stories and Lulu Reads to Zeki), but of course, books are so integral to Lulu’s life that it is, in fact, Lulu’s favourite rhyme from a book of garden poems ‘Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary’ that inspires her to plant a garden of her own; and a trip to the library provides her with books to help her decide which flowers she wants to plant.
Mummy helps her buy and then plant the seeds. It takes a long time for her flowers to grow and it’s hard to be patient, but Lulu has plenty to keep her occupied while she’s waiting: she makes her own flower book, including a copy of the nursery rhyme (which is also included inside the front cover of the book). She strings bells, finds shells, and even makes her own Mary. I love that Lulu has made Mary look like her (in so far as a wooden-spoon doll can look like anyone) with dark-coloured skin and thick black hair.
Eventually her flowers grow and what a display! There’s a delightful illustration of Lulu beaming proudly among her poppies and the sunflowers that tower over her. Daddy helps her add the things she has made; and then she invites her friends, who ‘love everything about her garden’ as well as the crunchy peas and sweet strawberries grown by Mummy. (Perhaps Lulu’s next garden project?).
Lulu Loves Flowers is an affirming book for young children: Lulu is very much in charge all the way through. Her parents help her but they don’t lead. And not just at home: at the garden centre, Lulu receives her purchase of seeds from the hands of the shopkeeper, while Mummy stands behind holding the shopping list – we don’t see their faces because the illustration is focused on Lulu.
Lulu Loves Flowers is a gentle story, beautifully crafted and illustrated, about a little girl spendng time on a project and reaping the rewards of commitment and patience. At the very end, Lulu makes up a new story for her friends about Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, and the rear endpaper provides a new version of the rhyme, ‘Lulu, Lulu, Quite Extraordinary’ about her garden. I’m sure the book will inspire lots of young children to start a garden project, not to mention making their own stories and rhymes.
Go to Lulu’s website for instructions to make a Mary doll, cupcakes and other Lulu-inspired crafts…
And if your child is inspired by Lulu to plant a garden or to make any of the crafts, do share photos!