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Emily Hughes was born in Hawaii but lives and works in the United Kingdom. She is inspired by Chinese cinema and illustrators such as Blair Lent and Gyo Fujikawa. Her work has been exhibited across the capital and her book Nana Shaped Like a Banana came second in the 2012 Macmillan Prize for Children's Picture Books. Her first picture book has been highly successful in bookshops and libraries across the United States and United Kingdom.
"Inspired by a single glorious flower, a Tom Thumb-like gardener toils himself into exhaustion in his attempts to tame enormous weeds and clear the litter from his property. When he finally sleeps in his cozy straw cottage, a regular-size girl is motivated by the same bloom, then takes over the task. When the title character wakes, he and his helper relish the resulting bursts of flora, especially the plant they first admired. Hughes uses minimal text and a dark palette to great effect. The lush wilderness, likely inspired by her Hawaiian background, luckily remains even in the completed garden. VERDICT A gentle fairy tale, the story encourages tenacity and speaks to the value of teamwork and environmental stewardship." --School Library Journal Emily Hughes' spare prose allows her gorgeous artwork to tell the story of the gardener and the single flower that brings him inspiration and hope. Layered with meaning, this is a book worth lingering over and cherishing. --NPR, Best Books 2015 Through economical text and luscious illustrations, Hughes captures the daunting challenge (and sometimes despair) of environmental stewardship. However, she ends her story on a hopeful note as the Little Gardener's seemingly futile efforts inspire others to take up the cause. --Huffington Post, Best Picture Books of 2015 It's a tender metaphor for the miracle of gardening. Hughes's rich, rhythmic storytelling voice and dark tapestry spreads carry perennial magic. --Publisher's Weekly, STARRED REVIEW Through economical text and luscious illustrations, Hughes captures the daunting challenge (and sometimes despair) of environmental stewardship. However, she ends her story on a hopeful note as the Little Gardener's seemingly futile efforts inspire others to take up the cause. --Huffington Post A lovely visual tribute to the persistent hard work behind every flourishing garden. --Kirkus Reviews What Hughes does with these colored-pencil illustrations is impressive. Brimming with details and earthy vibrance, they are more than up to the task of carrying the story visually. The garden setting also lends itself to some "seek and find" moments, when young readers will be looking closely to spot the gardener among the flora. It's a little story about some pretty big emotions: persistence, dedication, and love. It's also a book that might make you cry happy tears during story time. A beauty. Scope Notes, Best New Book [...] charming, immeasurably sweet [...] Hughes's illustrations, vibrant and deeply alive, capture that strange tapestry of tenderness and wilderness of which the human soul is woven. [...] a heartwarming delight in its entirety [...] Scope Notes, Best New Book The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes is a miracle of a picture book. Its stunning lush, rough, almost jagged, illustrations paired with a simple, striking narrative holds an incredible power to focus its readers onto this single story and let the rest of the world fade away. --The Picture Book Review The Little Gardner is different from Wild on the surface, but it still shows the affinity children have with nature and wild things. [...] This story subtly validates the experience of failure while keeping a sense of hope blooming. I'm very impressed at how Hughes addresses the deep feelings of insecurity children have. In The Little Gardner, she shows how the efforts little ones make, even if they don't entirely succeed, inspire those bigger than they are. In The Little Gardner, she shows how befriending nature and tending to a garden keeps hope in your heart. --Joy Corcoran The images are evocative and gorgeous, reminding me of Maurice Sendak in terms of shapes and color choices. Wild and moving that will enthrall readers young and old as they explore the garden of the littlest gardener and see what he created in this world around him. --Andrew Shuping, Musing Librarian Reviews