The Night Gardener

by Terry Fan (Author) Eric Fan (Illustrator)

The Night Gardener
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

In the spirit of Goodnight Moon and The Curious Garden comes a stunning debut picture book filled with whimsy and creativity from brothers Terry and Eric Fan.

One day, William discovers that the tree outside his window has been sculpted into a wise owl. In the following days, more topiaries appear, and each one is more beautiful than the last. Soon, William's gray little town is full of color and life. And though the mysterious night gardener disappears as suddenly as he appeared, William--and his town--are changed forever.

With breathtaking illustrations and spare, sweet text, this masterpiece about enjoying the beauty of nature is sure to become an instant classic.

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Visual pleasure abounds. 


Though not quite life-changing itself, the Fan brothers’ quiet story is nevertheless invested with an element of agreeable magic which is underscored by their use of muted colors to evoke the mysteries of the night. It is a pleasing collaboration with art bound to both haunt and delight.

Hornbook Guide to Children

Whimsical graphite illustrations reflect the story's dreamlike quality, and spare digital coloration enhances the emotional impact of each work of art.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Brothers Terry and Eric Fan set their first story in a dreary town and imagine what happens when it is transformed by a gardener's skill. William, an orphan, sits glumly in front of his orphanage scratching an owl in the dirt as a stranger walks by. After dark, readers see the stranger at work with his shears in a tree in front of the building. In the morning, the man's artistry is revealed: the tree has been shaped into an owl like the one William has drawn. The town, initially rendered in gray pencil, shows a blush of color as people gather to marvel: "Something was happening on Grimloch Lane. Something good." A topiary parrot appears, an elephant, a magnificent dragon; townspeople of varying ages and ethnicities rejoice, and the spreads take on livelier hues. One night, William spots the gardener, follows him, and gets a topiary lesson. Though the gardener leaves soon after and the trees revert to normal as the seasons change, the town thrives, as will William, it seems clear. A treat, with artwork worth lingering over. Ages 4-8. Agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Productions. (Feb.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

With spare text and a simple palette, The Night Gardener tells the story of a depressed town's transformation with the help of a nocturnal gardener. The book begins on Grimloch Lane, a street where every head hangs down and an orphan boy, William, is down in the dumps. A dapper elderly man with a green leaf shining in his pocket passes him, and the magic begins. Every night, a new fantastical topiary appears in a tree on Grimloch Lane, to the neighborhood's delight. People begin playing outside, drawing, playing the tuba, and looking up in wonder: it's an urban planner's delight. William gets to tag along one night, and as the season changes, the work of creating community-revitalizing topiaries is passed to him. The illustrations look like a more cheerful Edward Gorey, done with a blend of fine-tip ink and pencil work and watercolor, with the night portrayed in pearly monochromatic blues. While most of the characters are white, a few background characters wandering through the trees are people of color. VERDICT An elegant picture book that celebrates creativity and community; for first purchase.—Lisa Nowlain, Darien Library, CT

Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Terry Fan
Terry Fan received his formal art training at Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada. His work is a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using ink or graphite mixed with digital. He spends his days (and nights) creating magical paintings, portraits, and prints. Terry is the cocreator of The Night Gardener, It Fell from the Sky, and Lizzy and the Cloud. Born in Illinois, he now lives in Toronto. Visit him online

Eric Fan is an artist and writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. Born in Hawaii and raised in Toronto, he attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, where he studied illustration, sculpture, and film. He has a passion for vintage bikes, clockwork contraptions, and impossible dreams. Eric is the cocreator of The Night Gardener, It Fell from the Sky, and Lizzy and the Cloud. Visit him online
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date
February 20, 2016
BISAC categories
JUV007000 - Juvenile Fiction | Classics
JUV029010 - Juvenile Fiction | Nature & the Natural World | Environment
JUV063000 - Juvenile Fiction | Recycling & Green Living
Library of Congress categories
Topiary work
NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children
Honor 2017 - 2017
Kirkus Prize
Nominee, Young Readers 2016 - 2016
ALA Notable Books for Childrenn
Nominee - Picture Books 2016 - 2016

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