Spring is sprung!
Spring is here! For most of us in Japan that means cherry blossoms, tulips and pink moss しばざくら (芝桜). The health and preservation of our natural environment is crucial to our physical, mental and emotional well-being, so what better opportunity than Spring to contemplate the significance of the earth and biosphere in stories and novels, as well as the poignancy of that bitter-sweet theme of beginnings and swift passing? A great place to start is the old folk tale of fidelity and friendship, Grandfather Cherry Blossom (downloadable .pdf), a leisurely 4-5 minute read for a fluent reader. This theme of friendship and fidelity is mirrored in the west by Shel Silverstein's children's picture book "The Giving Tree", a perennial favourite.
Reading Rockets and Goodreads have a list each of Spring-themed children's picture books and of course, familiar to many of us is The Lorax, which chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax, who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler.
Three "garden" novels our officers recommend are: The Secret Garden (graded reader versions abound!) by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a story in which Spring and rebirth/ re-emergence play an important part. Two native English speaking adult novels: The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys, a WW2 novel about the land girls contributing to the wartime effort by growing vegetables on a country estate. The gothic mystery, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton tells the story of a girl abandoned at a young age who seeks to discover her parentage and roots.
The language of flowers
Many authors have employed flowers in literature. From Shakespeare to Daphne du Maurier, flowers hold their own particular fascination. From the oft most-quoted Shakespeare flower line "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" to du Maurier's employment of blood-red rhododendrons in her gothic romance Rebecca as "monsters, rearing to the sky, massed like a battalion, too beautiful I thought, too powerful; they were not like plants at all", flowers in literature evoke rewarding symbolisms for the aware reader.