by Charis Wahl
Illustrated by Luc Melanson
For release March, 2015
Every neighbourhood has a Rosario in their midst or, if they don't, they should. Rosario is the gardening aficionado, "a garden magician", who knows the right time to turn over the soil, to plant, and how to tend to his outstanding collection of ginormous vegetables. No one grew vegetables like Rosario. And the young girl who narrates this story is fortunate to live next door and help the older man.
Then one spring, something a little different happens: Rosario brings a big potted fig tree out from his house. He nurtures it through its summer growth and fruit and, when fall comes, prepares an unusual bed for the tree, essentially laying it to rest as if in a grave. Our narrator is convinced Rosario is saying good-bye, expecting nothing else to come from the tree. But when spring comes, Rosario surprises her with how much he still can teach her.
Rosario's Fig Tree is a perfect picture book to herald the beginning of spring, to start thinking about the promise of the earth to bring forth new life and fresh vegetables and fruit. Charis Wahl's first picture book delivers a message about the value of inter-generational relationships, learning from those with the experience. An elderly neighbour with a green thumb is the perfect mentor for a child wanting to learn about gardening.
While Luc Melanson is hardly the newbie when it comes to illustration, having previously illustrated The Grand Journey of Mr. Man (Tibo, 2001)–winning the 2002 Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Book Illustration for it–and his own Topsy-Turvy Town (2010), among others, he brings a freshness to the story. His palette of colours are earthy and promising. His skinny characters with the long and large heads are very distinct in Rosario's Fig Tree, allowing the reader to focus on the expressive nature of the eyes and smiles, and the very simplest details like Rosario's wrinkles and the girl's freckles. As highly stylized as Luc Melanson's drawings may be, the reader, young and old alike, will be able to place themselves easily in Rosario's garden with its robust vegetables, elderly friends who come by to advise, and even its snow-covered and fenced-enclosed winter version.
Rosario's Fig Tree takes me back to another time and place but will deliver young readers to a place where they may search out their own Rosario or appreciate one already next door. And I hope everyone will see the same magic that Rosario, Charis Wahl and Luc Melanson deliver in Rosario's Fig Tree. It's ripe for the picking.