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“Ever since I could remember anything, flowers have been like friends to me,” wrote Celia Thaxter, the subject of authors Phyllis Root and Gary D. Schmidt’s gorgeous children’s picture book, which celebrates Celia’s life and work as a renowned gardener, nature writer, and artist.  

Born in 1835, Celia and her family moved to White Island in the Isles of Shoals in 1839 where Celia’s father worked as a lighthouse keeper. Celia planted a garden in rocky ledges and discovered native flowers along the shoreline. When Celia was 12, she and her family moved to nearby Appledore Island, and Celia’s father built a resort hotel. Then Celia planted a more spacious garden around the establishment and nurtured her flowers even as she fulfilled her responsibilities at the hotel.  

When Celia married Levi Thaxter, he insisted they move to the mainland because he feared the sea and disliked living on the island. Away from her beloved garden and island, Celia penned her longing for them in poems that were eventually published. She also took up painting: “I want to paint everything I see; every leaf, stem, seed vessel, grass blade, rush, and reed and flower has new charms, and I thought I knew them all before.” Each spring, Celia returned to Appledore Island and took care of her garden for another season. 

Illustrator Melissa Sweet’s exquisite, detailed pictures of the myriad flowers that Celia grew and vivid portrayal of the sea in all its vastness and power complement the narrative of this stirring, informative children’s picture book. (Candlewick)


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