Reading/Interest Level: Preschool, Primary
Author: Martin Widmark
Illustrator: Emilia Dziubak
Publisher: Floris Books
An old, lonely man named Niles lives in a dirty house with only his memories. He remembers children sleeping in their room and says good night to his departed wife before falling asleep in his bed. One day a boy brings him a seemingly empty pot in the middle of the night and asks him to care for it while he is gone. Niles does not want to keep the pot, but the boy is gone before he can give it back! Something is beginning to grow in the pot, and something starts to grow in the old grump's heart. His windows open to the light and air. His cat comes back. When the boy returns, there is a beautiful poppy in the pot, and Niles is ready to welcome the little guy in as well, but the boy has an even better idea. He invites the old fellow out into the garden to meet his family instead.
Everyone needs to feel needed. It has been a long time since Niles has felt as if anyone or anything needed him. The simultaneous awakening of his heart and the flower is a beautiful way to express this basic human need. As Niles cares for the plant, he cares for himself as well, and this opens his heart and mind to new relationships with the family next door. The juxtaposition of Niles coming down the stairs with his limited light in the first pages to the later illustration of the blooming flower in his dream is heartfelt and meaningful and lovely. This book is perfect for children who may be afraid to approach an older person, and it shows how important it is to do so. This book is an excellent reminder to everyone to keep an open heart and to keep a welcome space for the lonely at all times.