september’s garden

“Flowers are blooming all over the place… ” the character Lydia Grace, in  The Gardener,

by Sarah Stewart with illustrations by David Small, 1997


“… It is that rarity, a pictorial delight that in 20 double pages gives more and more of itself each time it’s read, and whose silent complexities reveal themselves with continuing pleasure.”  Edward Koren/The New York Times Book Review

My gardening pal Ann gifted me with The Gardener ages ago & it’s now part of my late summer ritual, to pull it down from the shelf near my Frost poetry books & enjoy Frost the farmer & then, the character Lydia Grace’s gardening skills in David Small’s artwork & Sarah Stewart’s inventive series of letters. Late summer is the time when I give my vest-pocket patch an imaginary rainbow-ribbon, for its color mix.

The flowers here, shrimp plant, brown-eyed Susan & blue something that I have to ask Ann about the name, grow in my  September garden in the back yard, a flutter of petals and juicy dirt lined with fallen live oak tree limbs that bear the otherwise aboreal resurrection fern…

I like to write outdoors by the garden with a pencil & pad. Then take inside what has taken off on paper & get that into the computer.


I am enjoying  The Signmaker’s Assistant, which carries with it a whimsical, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (Cloudy is soon to be in a theater near you) sensiblilty that I like.  More on Signmaker in a second.

This story sends me into my library, to look up at a message high on the wall above the window. The message is in black paint, on wood. It’s a sign.

I grew up with this sign &  I think you can guess that I love it.

Among the houses of pals & family folks I visited in childhood, ours was the only house with a sign in it.

It was given to me by my father, who had been a drill sgt. in the U.S. Army. This sign was made for him by a solider. Dad was good at making the guys write their letters home, in the Writing Room.  I love the uneven sides sawed for the sign and the big block letters. I can imagine him walking through the room where it hung at Fort Dix, N.J., making sure the boys had paper and pencils. The sign later hung over a family desk during my childhood. When it became clear I liked writing, my Dad promised it to me.  I can write when I’m not near it. But I have also looked up at it when stuck & found something in it that helped me forge on.

c. 2009 Jan Godown Annino Writing Room

These days, I find  something stuck above it at the top, red words on white paper  – a Florida sign in the form of a bumper sticker.  Every so often here in the Sunshine State some of us think perhaps a fella named Skink should enliven election coverage by campaigning for Governor of Florida.

Skink is the nickname of  a character  Carl Hiaasen created, a rascal who is a book-toting, wilderness-camping, former Florida governor, living out of a station wagon in the cypress swamps of South Florida. The paper sign says “Re-elect SKINK for Governor.”

Both signs are totems in my writing world.


Nathan is the young character in The Signmaker’s Assistant by Tedd Arnold who discovers the power of words when he goes beyond his little job cleaning paint brushes for the town signmaker. Nathan posts a few signs around the village that any child would applaud. But are these the kinds of signs that will help the town run smoothly?

I lucked into this book – signed by the talented illustrator-author – in a small art gallery gift shop in North Florida when my husband & I visited it on a recent weekend. Tedd Arnold is the 2006 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book Winner for Hi! Fly Guy. He also won the 2007 Edgar for RAT LIFE, a Young Adult novel & it was his very 1st novel, after publishing more than 50 successful picture books, which keep on dancing out of his studio in New York State.  The p.b. title in his line up that intrigues me most from the title, is Catalina Magdalena Hoopensteiner Wallendiner Hogan Logan Bogan Was Her Name. Makes me think of Double Trouble in Walla Walla from Andrew Clements with pictures by Salvatore Murdocca.

For more on Tedd Arnold,  sign-maker, book-maker, word-slinger: