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The Story Behind
Miss Emma's Wild Garden
by Anna Grossnickle Hines
The story came from my back yard. The first spring we lived here, when the blood-roots and dog-tooth violets began blooming, I became curious to discover and identify all the plants in our little woodland. Soon I began adding more plants to the garden. They grew and multiplied until I now have great patches of wild ginger, phlox, foam flower, partridge berry, wild irises and bleeding hearts. I also have trillium, jack-in-pulpits, turtleheads, columbine, blue flags, and more. Some begin blooming in very early spring, most are in bloom in May, as in the book, and others wait until summer, or even September. Working in my garden gives me a chance to get fresh air and exercise after spending time writing and drawing. I also enjoy looking out on the garden from my attic studio. That's when I usually see the animals that visit. I have seen a wild blue heron in the creek, deer, woodchucks, squirrels, and many different birds. Working in the garden I often find toads, salamanders, and small snakes, which can be startling- for me and the snake!

Unfortunately, though I love to see the deer and was delighted when the first woodchuck and her baby moved in, they eat more than their share. Sometimes the deer will nip all the buds off a patch of flowers just before they bloom. I have put fencing around some plants, and spray others with a mixture of hot sauce and ammonia. The spray discourages the deer, but the woodchucks, now three adults and as many as five babies, seem to think it's salad dressing. Often, spotting a woodchuck having a snack, I will run down the stairs and burst through the back door yelling and clapping. My daughter thinks I'm very funny. I don't know what the neighbors think. I hope someday my plants will be numerous and big enough that I can be like Miss Emma and welcome all the animals to share.

I gave a lot of thought to the names in this book. Emma means ancestress. I thought it suited a person who passed on her love of nature to a child. Chloe means young green sprout, which seemed just right for my wild garden child.

The illustrations were painted in the middle of winter--a long winter when we had snow on top of snow on top of snow. Fortunately I had taken many pictures of my flowers, and could also refer to photographs in my gardening books. Miss Emma and Chloe are drawn mostly from my imagination, but I often looked at photos, or myself in a mirror, to get a position right. The trickiest pose was Chloe upside-down. One day I was home alone working on that and having a lot of trouble getting the arms and head right. I couldn't find a photo that would help. Finally I went downstairs, put our full length mirror near the bed, lay down on my back and scooted off the edge until I had my head hanging down and my hands on the floor. I got pretty dizzy and even a little sick to my stomach looking at myself that way, but it helped with my drawing.

The hardest part of doing these pictures was to plan out the garden, figuring out what could be seen from different points of view, being careful to keep a clear sky on each page so there would be a place to put the words. I had to figure out how Miss Emma and Chloe would walk through the garden from one place to another. I made myself a map which shows their path, where each plant and animal is, and where Miss Emma and Chloe would be standing as they looked at each scene. It's kind of like a big puzzle.

I do often see deer, woodchucks, squirrels and various birds in my garden.  I love it when I spot a blue heron fishing in the creek. But I’m not quite as friendly to all of the animals as Miss Emma. The deer and woodchucks eat too much, so I often shoo them away.  We had a young fawn visiting this summer though, and I found it hard to chase such a cute little baby away.

Published by Greenwillow Books, 1997
ISBN 0-688-14692-9 TR; 0-688-14693-7 LE


American Bookseller Pick of the Lists!
A lovely introduction to the "wild" wonders of a garden. It seems to fill a need for this age group (3-6 year olds). The dialogue between a small girl and her grown-up friend is whimsical and believable.
American Bookseller, Spring 1997

Young Chloe notes that her neighbor's garden is not like her papa's. Miss Emma's garden is wild, and things grow any way they please. So begins an exploration of the garden by the young girl and the old woman. Hines' thickly applied acrylic paint makes for a luxuriant garden that harbors a variety of flowers, animals, and birds. After Miss Emma points out each new discovery, Chloe asks, "What else?" Finally, Miss Emma says there is nothing else, but Chloe knows there is one more wild creature in the garden: "Me!" An intergenerational story and a mini-nature lesson in one attractive package.
Ilene Cooper, Booklist , March 1, 1997, Copyright© 1997, American Library Association. All rights reserved

How does Miss Emma's well- loved garden grow? Wild and crazy, just the way she likes it. Chloe's father has a garden that is tame, cultivated into tidy rows, but Chloe prefers rambling through Miss Emma's garden and reveling in its many pleasures. Hines provides acrylic paintings that make an abundant display of this garden; it's not all that unruly, but it is a welcome place for others--deer, rabbits, woodchucks, cardinals, butterflies, and Chloe--``the best wild creature in my wild, crazy garden,'' Miss Emma says. It's predictable as spring, but in its simplicity, almost as pleasing. (Picture book. 3-6)
Kirkus Reviews , February 15, 1997 Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Chloe loves Miss Emma's garden because it is wild and not all in rows like her father's.  As she romps in her neighbor’s yard, she constantly asks Miss Emma to name things, from plants to the animals that come to nibble on them.  Young readers will enjoy this naming game and will soon join in with Chloe to ask, "What else is in your garden?" All of Hines's borderless acrylic paintings, including the cover, spread over two pages, thus affording panoramic views of a colorful garden in full bloom.  While it would take special conditions to have all the plants bloom at the same time, it is possible, and the sight is a joyous celebration of spring. Deer, rabbits, woodchucks, skinks, squirrels, and birds are welcomed by Miss Emma, as is "the best wild creature in [her] wild, crazy garden" -young  Chloe herself, who, like the butterflies that flit among the flowers, brings spark and energy to the otherwise tranquil scenes.  Joanne Ryder's picture book poem Dancers in the Garden (Sierra Club, 1992) would make an excellent companion for a seasonal story hour. PreS-Gr 2
Marianne Saccardi, School Library Journal, May, 1997

Miss Emma's Wild Garden will tickle your imagination until it's finally time to let the gardens grow again. Miss Emma prefers a wild garden. She likes to "let things things grow any crazy way they want." On each page of the book, she points out various wild things in the garden to Chloe, who turns out to be the most wonderful wild thing in the whole place.
Jane Kurtz, Herald, Grand Forks, ND April 1997

Miss Emma's garden doesn't grow in rows.  It's a wild garden where Miss Emma lets things "grow any crazy way they want." As talented author/ artist Anna Grossnickle Hines details in Miss Emma’s Wild Garden, the garden attracts the admiration of a neighbor girl named Chloe, who revels in its wildness.  For Chloe, the garden is a magical place where Miss Emma welcomes wild creatures to feast on their favorite plants.  Young readers will identify with Chloe's curiosity and energy, while they enjoy Hines' gorgeously colored paintings of garden plants and animals. (Ages 3 to 6.)
Star Tribune, Minneapolis- St.Paul, May 1997

Chloe enjoys Miss Emma's garden because it's not all in rows like her father's. "I like to let things grow any crazy way they want," says Miss Emma. Together they walk through the garden, and in these delightful illustrations, Chloe discovers bluebells and dandelions, shooting stars and bleeding hearts. Chloe wants to see everything. "What else?" she asks Miss Emma again and again. They watch the creatures in the garden--cardinals eating seeds, the deer eating flower buds. And what is the best creature in the wild, crazy garden? Chloe. A warm story where the child inquires and discovers herself. (Ages 5-8)
Dia Michels, Children's Literature Newsletter, May 1998

A little girl named Chloe loves the variety and ranginess of her neighbor's garden even though it's not at all the tidy, row-upon-row arrangement in the garden her own father keeps. Miss Emma's garden is a jumble: shooting stars, phlox, bleeding hearts, violets, even dandelions.  Chloe loves the dandelions every gardener except Miss Emma extirpates on sight.  Miss Emma loves dandelions, too; calls them "little golden sunshines." All sorts of wild creatures grow and prosper in Miss Emma's garden: rabbits and woodchucks, birds and butterflies, skinks and toads.  Chloe, who loves to do handstands and swing from tree limbs and ask questions and give hugs, also feels right at home in that "wild and crazy" garden. Hines' story celebrates the vigorous beauty of a mostly spontaneous garden.  The lush greens that dominate her paintings make it immediately clear why Chloe (and any sensible child) feels shoes are simply not an option where there's grass. Ages 3-7.
Detroit Free Press, June 1997

Chloe revels in her neighbor's wild garden, so different from her father's neat rows, and the grandmotherly Miss Emma enjoys Chloe's own wild ways. Homey acrylic paintings reveal the garden from different perspectives as Miss Emma names some of the plants and animals in her garden.
Horn Book, Copyright © 1997 The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bounce along with Chloe as she and Miss Emma discover the wonders and beauty of the backyard "wild" garden. The soft colorful illustrations let the young reader experience nature in a friendly and familiar environment.
New York Family and Westchester Family, July 1997

A young girl asks about all the wild creatures that can be found in her older friend's garden, from rabbits and woodchucks to butterflies and bees--and one very exuberant child.
American /book Publishing Record, New Providence, NJ, March 1997

Young [Chloe] likes to tour her neighbor's garden because it's so wild, unlike her father's with plants all in rows. Together they learn about the wild creatures who visit the garden and nibble the plants. But the wildest creature of all is Miss Emma's young visitor. Fun for young readers, who will enjoy looking for wild things in their own back yards after reading this. (ages 3-8)
Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA, July 1997

Who needs a garden laid out in rows as neat as a Bread & Circus produce display? Certainly not the gardener in not the gardener in "Miss Emma's Wild Garden. Every kid should be required by law to have a Miss Emma in her life.  She is happy to have Chloe join her, and identifies the various flowers - shooting stars, foam flowers, phlox and bleeding hearts - and vegetables and small animals that share the space.  Even better, it takes Miss Emma all day to get to the point where she gets tired of the 'what else' questions. The soft, summery colors of Hines' palette warm a winter day and provide a low-key nature lesson at the same time.  The wildest creature of this oh-so-gentle garden is Chloe herself.
Andrea Cleghorn, Westwood Suburban Press, March 6, 1997

Chloe loves hearing her neighbor, Miss Emma, tell the child the story of the "wild and crazy" things growing in her garden, and the wild creatures that nibble them.  Chloe reminds Miss Emma that she, too, is in the garden and Miss Emma agrees, "You are the best wild I creature in my wild crazy garden." This book captures the special times shared by an adult and child.
Yellow Brick Road, July/August 1997

A young girl named Chloe enjoys a beautiful spring day with her older friend Miss Emma. Chloe asks many questions about Miss Emma's wild garden. She loves how the flowers are not grown in rows but instead are bunched together. Chloe also is pleased that Miss Emma grows dandelions, unlike her papa. Miss Emma also tells Chloe the names of her many flowers. As well as asking about the many plants, Chloe is very interested in the wild animals who inhabit the garden. The reader sees squirrels scampering up trees and woodchucks nibbling on violets. Chloe is able to compare the sunbathing skink to her blue shirt.  Miss Emma explains to Chloe that the wildest and most prized creature in the garden is Chloe.  Hines helps to show the strong bond between young children and the elderly.  Beautiful double-paged, full-color acrylic art fills each page.  Hines uses bright colors and details to make the flowers life-like.  The contrast of hues brings the reader to Miss Emma's garden and helps him or her to experience the exuberance of spring.  A charming story with excellent pictures that bring the book to life.  A great resource for elementary teachers to use for science units.
Anna Schneider, Grade 12, Keyser High School, Keyser, West Virginia.  The Companion, January 1997

This is a wild and wonderful exploration of a woodland garden. From animals to plants, everything is softly tinted and clearly defined. Discovering the very last thing in the garden will delight. (K-3)
Brenda Carpenter-Hines, Media Specialist, Shamrock Gardens Elementary School, August 1997

Miss Emma's Wild Garden is a colorful story for younger audiences. When young Chloe visits Miss Emma working in her woodland garden, she is introduced to all the wild creatures and birds that delight in the garden's bounty.
Nancy Hobbs, Salt Lake City Tribune, April 1997

In this intergencrational story, Chloe, a barefooted child, and Miss Emma take a wander through the older woman's summertime garden.  "What's in your garden, Miss Emma?' Chloe asks, and the little girl's persistent "What else?' refrain continues throughout the book as their encounters with garden wildlife spring from nearly every double-page spread.  Deer, rabbits, woodchucks, cardinals, a skink (not a misspelled skunk but a lizard), a squirrel, a nuthatch, a toad, butterflies, and bees make cameo appearances at just the right moment, all seeming safer than the titular "wild" would suggest.  Acrylic renderings of Miss Emma's Eden show it flourishing in lush green tones with delicately drawn blooms in a summer bouquet palette, but Chloe and her friend have unnaturally peachy fleshrones, are stiffly drawn, and often seem awkwardly plopped into the foliage.  For kids who like languid garden strolls more than a wild jungle tour this could be the ticket, but for real bouts of spring fever try a Burpee’s catalogue or Perkin’s Home Lovely.
BCCB, May 1997

Chloe's friend Miss Emma has a garden that grows any crazy way it wants. In it are dandelions, shooting stars, and wild blue phlox. There are wild creatures too: deer that eat the flower buds and rabbits that nibble the wild ginger. But there is one more wild creature in Miss Emma's garden--can you guess what it is? This delightful picture book has all the clues you need. Ages 3 and up.
Borders Browser's Guide, April 1997

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