The best books about gardens as places of discovery and change

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was growing up, my mother loved to garden. I remember visiting the nursery with her and being captivated by all the rows of flowers with the gorgeous names: marigolds, cosmos, dahlias, fuchsias. Now I have a garden of my own, and it’s my happy place. It adds color and fragrance to my life, and it keeps me grounded (literally and figuratively) when things are stressful. And as a writer, I find that story ideas often come to me when I’m working in the garden. It’s a constant source of inspiration and delight.       


I wrote...

The Seeing Garden

By Ginny Kubitz Moyer,

Book cover of The Seeing Garden

What is my book about?

It’s 1910, and Catherine Ogden is aching to live a creative life. That’s not easy to do when her aunt and uncle—­and all of New York society—consider a good marriage to be the pinnacle of feminine achievement. But when Catherine visits Oakview, the Northern California estate of bachelor William Brandt, she thinks it might be possible to satisfy her family’s hopes as well as her own. There, she finds the opportunity to use her artistic gifts in designing the estate's garden. But as Catherine is drawn into William’s hidden life, she discovers that Oakview holds more risk than she ever imagined. It will take courage—and the lessons of some shocking revelations about the past—to choose the path that leads to real freedom. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of An Episode of Sparrows

Ginny Kubitz Moyer Why did I love this book?

I love how Rumer Godden’s novels pair lyrical writing with complex characters. An Episode of Sparrows is no exception.  

The novel takes place in post-WWII London, where Lovejoy, a young girl whose mother has pawned her off on strangers, plants a hidden garden in the shelter of a bombed-out church. Lovejoy is both fierce and tender in her desperation to have something to believe in, and Godden’s fluid storytelling carries the reader along as Lovejoy and the local children find sanctuary in their unsanctioned garden.

This moving novel shows that gardens can be the catalyst for friendship and community. It also shows that in hard times, the act of creating something beautiful is often the very thing that helps us survive.

By Rumer Godden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Episode of Sparrows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

By the author of Black Narcissus and The River

WITH A FOREWORD BY JACQUELINE WILSON

'A masterpiece of construction and utterly realistically convincing' JACQUELINE WILSON

'Author Godden here tries her deft writing hand at landscaping a child's heart' TIME

'It is a sentimental tale, well told, with an unlikely and entirely satisfactory ending' NEW YORKER

Someone has been digging up the private garden in the Square. Miss Angela Chesney of the Garden Committee is sure that a gang of local boys is to blame, but her sister, Olivia, isn't so sure. She wonders why the neighbourhood children - 'sparrows' she…


Book cover of Tom's Midnight Garden

Ginny Kubitz Moyer Why did I love this book?

When I was a child, I was captivated by this 1958 English novel. It’s every bit as good forty years later. 

Tom, a bored boy spending the summer with his aunt and uncle, finds a rambling Victorian garden in the backyard of the house… but the garden is only there at night, gone during the day.

It’s a gripping time-travel story, one that celebrates the garden as a place where a child can stretch both limbs and mind. And through Tom’s friendship with a Victorian girl named Hatty, the novel touches beautifully upon the ache that comes from seeing your friends grow up before you do. 

The novel’s fantastical elements are handled (and, ultimately, explained) in a totally satisfying way. It’s an enchanting read.

By Philippa Pearce, Jaime Zollars (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Tom's Midnight Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Carnegie Medal

From beloved author Philippa Pearce, this sixtieth-anniversary edition is the perfect way to share this transcendent story of friendship with a new generation of readers. Philip Pullman, bestselling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, called Tom's Midnight Garden "A perfect book."

When Tom's brother gets sick, he's shipped off to spend what he's sure will be a boring summer with his aunt and uncle in the country. But then Tom hears the old grandfather clock in the hall chime thirteen times, and he's transported back to an old garden where he meets a young,…


Book cover of The Samurai's Garden

Ginny Kubitz Moyer Why did I love this book?

There’s a serene, almost dreamlike quality to The Samurai’s Garden which drew me in right away.

On the eve of WWII, a young man recovering from tuberculosis spends the year at his family’s summer home in Japan. There are actually two gardens in the story: one is the lush green one at his home, and the other is a stone garden in the pine forests, tended by Sachi, a woman who has lived with leprosy for decades.

Though both gardens lead to transformation, Sachi’s garden in particular teaches the narrator that as long as there is beauty in the world, there is life. I loved this novel’s luminous writing and vivid sense of place. It’s a beautiful testament to human loyalty and the healing power of nature.

By Gail Tsukiyama,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Samurai's Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the eve of the Second World War, a young Chinese man is sent to his family's summer home in Japan to recover from tuberculosis. There he meets four local residents, and what ensues is a classical yet wonderfully unique adventure that seizes the imagination with its clean, simple yet dazzling storytelling.


Book cover of The Solitary Summer

Ginny Kubitz Moyer Why did I love this book?

This 1899 book is more memoir than novel, and it’s a charming one. 

The narrator lives with her husband (whom she amusingly calls The Man of Wrath) and her small daughters on their German country estate. In the first chapter, she announces that she wants to spend her summer alone in the garden, where she is happiest: “I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to grow.”

And although she can’t quite manage a summer of solitude – the demands of her family and tenants require attention—the novel still shows the restorative power of being in the garden. Von arnim’s affectionate odes to her sweet peas and roses will resonate with any reader who loves to stop and smell the flowers. 

By Elizabeth Von Arnim,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Solitary Summer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth Von Arnim - Akasha Classics, AkashaPublishing.Com - May 2nd. - Last night after dinner, when we were in the garden, I said, "I want to be alone for a whole summer, and get to the very dregs of life. I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to grow. Nobody shall be invited to stay with me, and if any one calls they will be told that I am out, or away, or sick. I shall spend the months in the garden, and on the plain, and…


Book cover of The Secret Garden

Ginny Kubitz Moyer Why did I love this book?

My love for this book started at age ten, when I read it for the first time and couldn’t put it down.

It introduced me to many of the tropes I would later come to love: the big house in the country, secrets from the past, the wise mother-figure. 

Most of all, though, this story about three children who resurrect a dormant walled garden taught me the power of hope. This novel shows us that although seeds and bulbs may look dead, there is a life inside that just needs care and space to flourish.

It’s a beautiful lesson for children and adults alike.

By Frances Hodgson Burnett, Tasha Tudor (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Secret Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a magical novel for adults and children alike

'I've stolen a garden,' she said very fast. 'It isn't mine. It isn't anybody's. Nobody wants it, nobody cares for it, nobody ever goes into it. Perhaps everything is dead in it already; I don't know.'

After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle's gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no…


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Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade

By Kimberly Behre Kenna,

Book cover of Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade

Kimberly Behre Kenna Author Of Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

From early childhood, I escaped into nature when times got tough—climbing trees, exploring the woods, and chatting with beach creatures. When I had to be indoors, books were my escape, and most of my favorites had rich nature settings that were so well-drawn that I could see them and feel like I was actually there. Following strong protagonists as they deal with life challenges by interacting with nature was an affirmation for me and still is. As a parent and former fifth-grade teacher, I’ve witnessed the power that books have to lessen loneliness and inspire hope and activism. 

Kimberly's book list on middle grade kids and nature mingle

What is my book about?

Artemis Sparke has had it with humans. She heads to the nearby salt marsh to hang out with the birds, plants, and mollusks who don't make a big deal of her stutter. The shoreline sanctuary is predictable, unlike her family and friends, and the data in her science journal proves it.

But one day that data goes haywire, and her bird friend RT confirms it: the salt marsh is dying. Artemis discovers that the historic hotel where she lives with her mom may be part of the problem, but speaking up would mean confronting the cranky hotel owner who happens…

Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade

By Kimberly Behre Kenna,

What is this book about?

"...Artemis Sparke is pure energy! ...Kenna's well-crafted debut is a timely gift." -Leslie Connor, National Book Award finalist and author of The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle and Anybody Here Seen Frenchie?

When Artemis Sparke has had it with humans, she heads to the nearby salt marsh to hang out with the birds, plants, and mollusks who don't make a big deal of her stutter. The shoreline sanctuary is predictable, unlike her family and friends, and the data in her science journal proves it. But one day that data goes haywire, and her bird friend RT confirms it: the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in gardens, Japan, and spacetime?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about gardens, Japan, and spacetime.

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