January 29, 2024

Kaiah's Garden

Written by Melanie Florence
Illustrated by Karlene Harvey
North Winds Press (Scholastic Canada)
32 pp
Ages 5-8
January 2024
When a child moves with her family to a new home, she misses her old home at her Grandma's. The house isn't just far away in a new town, it lacks the colour that was part of her grandmother's home. That life came from many things, inside and outside, and, compared to that home, everything feels gray here.
From Kaiah's Garden, written by Melanie Florence, illus. by Karlene Harvey
From the quiet stairs to the backyard of dried-up weeds and flowers, Kaiah can't see anything beyond her feelings of missing her grandmother and her home. But when she hears a voice she senses as her grandmother saying, "Did you forget what's in your treasure box?" Kaiah is reminded of all she'd once enjoyed. In a special box worn smooth by generations of her people, she recalls the beading projects she'd completed with her Grandma. There's her very first, an apple, which brings back memories of an apple tree in the yard and of Grandma's warm hands touching hers to teach her how to bead. There's the sunshine yellow sun she'd beaded, as well as a flower, turtle, butterfly, and more. Her grandmother and her garden may not be there at their new house but Kaiah, with a little help from her mother and brother, knows how to bring her grandmother and more to this new home.
From Kaiah's Garden, written by Melanie Florence, illus. by Karlene Harvey
Melanie Florence, author of the award-winning Missing Nimâmâ and Stolen Words, again shares her heritage with us, teaching us about the importance of beadwork to Indigenous Peoples. (There is "A Note on Beadwork" at the conclusion of the book.) For Kaiah, the beadwork takes her back to her earlier life with her grandmother, learning the skill and embedding memories to help her reconnect with those who came before her. Now, she will use the beadwork for healing her spirit as well as for connecting her with her new home. Those tiny little beads can do so much when used to create and honour.
From Kaiah's Garden, written by Melanie Florence, illus. by Karlene Harvey
Karlene Harvey, a Tsilhqot-in and Syilx illustrator from BC, reminds us that the beadwork of Melanie Florence's story is what is most important. From the colourful and meaningful beadwork that adorns the endpapers of Kaiah's Garden to each of the pieces Kaiah draws from her treasure box, there is life and luminosity that is derived as much from the beads as from the association they endow.
Kaiah may believe that all there is a grayness at her new home–well, until she remembers her treasured beadwork–but Kaiah's Garden is nothing but colour. It's bold and beautiful and memorable, just like the treasures Kaiah pulls from her box.

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