Celia Planted a Garden

The Story of Celia Thaxter and Her Island Garden

Illustrator: Melissa Sweet

Binding: Hardcover

Imprint: Candlewick Press

Age 5+

Picture Storybooks

From an all-star team comes a lyrical picture-book biography about a writer and master gardener who created beauty in a harsh island habitat that was visited by literary and artistic luminaries of her time.

Celia Thaxter grew up on a desolate island off the coast of Maine, where her father worked as lighthouse keeper. Amid the white and gray of the sea, the rocks, and even the birds, young Celia found color where she could: green mosses and purple starfish and pink morning glories by the shore. And she planted her first garden, tucking bright marigolds between rocky ledges. When she was twelve, Celia’s family moved to nearby Appledore Island, where her father built a large hotel, and Celia planted a bigger, ever-growing garden with nearly sixty types of flowers, from asters to wisteria.

Guests flocked to the hotel from around the world, among them such writers as Longfellow, Whittier, and Hawthorne. Celia had been writing poems about the island, her garden, and the sea, and they would be printed in magazines and books, making her a foremother of writing about nature. Now, for the first time, Celia Planted a Garden showcases her life and work, in a poetic, vividly imagined picture book from a team of two authors and an illustrator, each recipients of numerous awards. More about Celia Thaxter, including a rich time line and bibliography, awaits readers in the back matter.


Phyllis Root is the award-winning author of more than forty children’s books, including the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner Big Momma Makes the World, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, and One Duck Stuck, illustrated by Jane Chapman. Phyllis Root lives in Minnesota.

Gary D. Schmidt is the author of two Newbery Honor Books, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars, which also earned a Michael L. Printz Honor, as well as the National Book Award Finalist Okay for Now. He lives in Michigan.

Melissa Sweet is a New York Times best-selling author and has illustrated nearly one hundred children’s books. She has received numerous awards, including two Caldecott Honors, the Robert F. Sibert Medal, an Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, and the Schneider Family Book Award. She lives in Maine.


Root and Schmidt describe Celia’s seasonal activities with great admiration, carefully naming the flower and bird species to which she felt so deeply connected. Sweet’s lush, detailed watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media illustrations greatly enhance the text. . . . A splendid introduction to a lesser-known nature poet and the landscapes that inspired her.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The quiet, precise text tells of a person who brought beauty to a barren place. . . Sweet’s vivid, beautifully crafted illustrations capture the story’s period setting and quiet, reflective subject. This handsome picture-book biography will resonate with those who love flower gardens and long for the sea.


Paired with the softness of watercolor and pencil lines within each image, the words and illustrations together create a visual tapestry that connects readers to [Thaxter’s] colorful world. . . . Elementary school-aged readers will enjoy learning about a colorful and creative woman through this work.

School Library Journal

Sweet’s illustrations follow the text’s lead. . . Thaxter’s devotion to her titular garden shines bright.

The Horn Book

Vivid nature writing infuses this picture book biography of New England artist and poet Celia Thaxter (1835–1894). . . . In mixed media, Sweet showcases florals on every page, weaving in quotes from Thaxter’s own writing.

Publishers Weekly

Other books you'll love