The Night Gardener
Written and illustrated by The Fan Brothers
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016
“The Night Gardener” is a gorgeously illustrated picture book that tells a magical tale of the transformative power of art and the kindness of an old man.
The story begins as the orphan William traces an owl into the dirt and a strange old man walks by carrying a ladder, a bag of tools, and a rolled-up rug over his shoulder.
During the blue-tinged night, the old man clips away at a tree in front of the dreary Grimloch Orphanage.
William wakes up and looks out his window to see a commotion on the street. He quickly dresses, runs downstairs, and races outside. As if by magic, the tree has been shaped into a wise old owl like the one he drew in the dirt. William spends the entire day staring at it in wonder.
As the days go by, every morning brings a new animal shape in a tree: a cat, a rabbit, a parrot, an elephant, and finally a dragon. William is very excited, and more and more people are coming out to see the artistry.
The pictures begin in black and white, but as the town’s excitement grows, more dabs of color appear in man’s blue suspenders, a boy’s red tricycle, and a man’s yellow tuba.
Finally, many townspeople gather and enjoy a day outdoors next to two trees that make a dragon.
As William begins to head home, he spots the night gardener. He turns to William and invites him to help him transform Grimloch Park.
They work together deep into the night until William falls asleep under a tree. In the morning, William awakens to the sound of happy families walking by and a gift of garden sheers from the night gardener.
The whole town comes out to admire the night gardener and William’s work. Every tree is a different animal: a giraffe, a dinosaur, a rhinoceros, a whale, and a bear.
As the seasons change and time goes by, the trees lose their animal shapes. The night gardener never returns, but the townspeople are forever changed. Now instead of a dreary black and white, the town is full of color and life.
And William becomes an artist with his sheers. On the last page, he is cutting a squirrel from a shrub.
“The Night Gardener” won the 2016 Dily Evans Founder’s Award, which is given by the Society of Illustrators, New York, to the most promising new talent in children’s book illustration.
About the Author and Illustrator
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. “The Night Gardener” is his first book. Born in Illinois, he now lives in Toronto. Visit him online at Krop, Society 6, and Facebook.
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. “The Night Gardener” is his first children’s book. See more of his work at his Society 6 shop and on Facebook.