Broccoli Rob and the Garden Singers is a delightful children’s book which will enchant your little ones with its melodious narrative and irresistible, relatable characters! It is universally acknowledged that magic and wonder can be found in ordinary things as well as in extraordinary things, however this is the book that will prove the validity of this statement to you once and for all. In fact, the reader follows the journey of Rob, a simple stalk of broccoli, through self-discovery and finding his voice (quite literally, in this case), a story that has nothing spellbinding or enchanting per se, but manages to be poignant and didactic nonetheless.
Indeed, what this book conveys in a great way is a lesson that concerns normal life, as it addresses questions that everyone asks themselves: who am I? Will the world accept me if I show my real self, or is it necessary to conform, putting on a mask instead? Surely, children (and especially young children at early stages of development) ask these questions too, in fact asking questions and wondering about reality is perhaps the distinctive trait of every child looking out the window of the world for the first time. Thus, the strong point of this work is, in my opinion, precisely that it addresses these uncomfortable, sometimes troubling questions about identity, it normalizes this thought process and, in the end, provides a comfortable answer that promotes acceptance and tolerance. This is also further developed in the text by the sense of community shared by the vegetables-characters, tied together through the parent-like figure of the wise Poppy Cornstalk, who provides guidance and whose advice leads to the ultimate resolution of the plot (incidentally, a metaphor of the role of the parent). It of course very good to see such important themes being discussed in a children’s book, which I would especially recommend to very young children, due to the style of the illustrations and especially since the earlier such important issues are discussed, the better it is for the infant’s psychological development.
On the matter of the illustrations, there is nothing to be said except that they are incredibly gorgeous, the artist could not be more talented and the high quality of the drawings will leave the reader astonished: I was quite impressed especially by the way they seem to be imagined and depicted directly from the point of view of a child, as if stemming directly from the child’s creative impulse. The colours are vivid and every character is detailed in a unique manner, presenting cute, adorable traits that are peculiar to each one of them. The backgrounds and the landscapes depicted too are exactly how a child would envision them, quirky and coloured in unconventional ways, leaving the imagination truly unbridled in this act of world-building. The images are truly a treat to the eyes and are delightful to look at. The font chosen perfectly matches all this aesthetically speaking (a very rare feature nowadays in children’s books, which tend to use fonts that are simply too serious or boring for the stories they narrate!), as the text is rather fanciful and lovely to look at as well, hence enhancing the reading experience that itself becomes more enjoyable.
The main thing I did not enjoy so much and that I would improve is the language, it can be quite bland and poor in vocabulary and it presents several weak sentences, and even the moral lesson shines through powerfully only at the end, but it could certainly have been unfolded and diluted in a better way throughout the book, in order to make it even more immediately understandable to the child reader. Furthermore, since this book is so overtly directed at younger children I was also expecting way more nursery rhymes and to find a certain musicality of the language, which is definitely lacking, to the point that sometimes I would make up rhymes in my head that could have been compatible but that I did not have the pleasure to find. In short, there is not an exact correspondence between the narration and the vibrant, lively aesthetic of the font and the images, since the language accompanying them is not even half crackling and fantastical as they are and it did not captivate me. This is such a pity considering that children’s books can afford to be poetic and dreamy-like (even nonsensical!) under any circumstance, especially when the subject matter concerned is banal, given that one of the main features of children’s literature is that it imbues the real with the unreal, twisting even the dullest corner into a spring of fantasies and visions.
Nevertheless, Broccoli Rob and the Garden Singers still scores a solid five out of five because of its truly fabulous illustrations that will enchant every child (and adult), enthralling the eyes to the point that they will be glued to the page until the end, and of course because of the moral that ultimately emerges to promote a positive, important message that every parent wants their children to learn. Be sure to get your copy once it is launched!
I am in the senior sophister year of my BA in English Literature and Classics, writing a thesis on John Keats’ poetry and 19th-century Victorian literature. I majored in English and I am specialized in reviewing children's books and classics. Tips for my work are greatly appreciated!