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Book Review: The Guinea Pig Gardeners by Caroline Pankhurst

The Guinea Pig Gardeners (5+) by Caroline Pankhurst

Illus. Maude Smith, Jelly Bean Books 2020

Relatively few of us grow our own food. So a young child will not necessarily experience or appreciate the connection between nature and what they eat. Particularly if they happen to live in a city. But in order for us to live sustainably, we need to understand this link. And that’s where educators like Caroline Pankhurst come in.

Humphrey the guinea pig is a keen gardener and vegetable lover with a penchant for celery. Finding his mother in need of honey one day, he decides to encourage the bees. But since the sunflower seeds he wants to plant are out of reach, he must enlist the help of a squirrel. After a gardener’s tea break of mint tea and celery — for these are frugal guinea pigs! — Humph is horrified to find Bella (the snail) and Donna (the slug) attacking his precious celery. A spot of negotiation ensues.

This is a charming tale, full of quirky botanical references (for adults) and gardening tips (for children). The language is varied and child-friendly, but not at all patronising. And the short chapters are well adapted for early readers. What’s more, Maude Smith’s beautifully detailed illustrations will delight non-readers, and allow for an independent ‘reading’.

‘I really want to help educate children in environmental matters and I have used practical gardening ideas in my story that I know children enjoy. I was inspired by my friends’ guinea pigs and all the squirrels I see doing acrobatics on bird feeders.’

Caroline Pankhurst, Education & Project Manager at South London Botanical Institute

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