Sweet Pea Summer by Hazel Mitchell

Sweet Pea Summer

Hazel Mitchell, Author & Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 13, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Family, Gardening, Nature, Intergenerational relationships, Separation, Health 

Opening: “Mom had to go into the hospital, so Dad was taking me to Grandpa and Grandma’s house for summer vacation.”

Publisher’s Synopsis

A young girl must stay with her grandparents while her mother is in the hospital. At first, it’s hard at first to focus on anything but missing and worrying about her mom. But then Grandpa suggests that she help out in his garden. And what a garden it is! There are rows and rows of vegetables and all kinds of flowers, but the most beautiful of all are Grandpa’s sweet peas. Maybe, Grandpa suggests, she can take care of them over the summer and enter them into the flower show.

Nothing seems to go right with the sweet peas. No matter what she does, the flowers keep dying. Until finally, the mystery is solved—but will the sweet peas bloom in time for the show? If only her mother were there . . .

With warm, child-friendly illustrations and a simple narration, author-illustrator Hazel Mitchell tells a timeless story about holding on to hope in hard times and finding the strength and determination to see it through. A brief author’s note at the end offers a bit of history and a few details about sweet peas for aspiring gardeners.

What’s to love about this story

Hazel Mitchell has written and illustrated a book that is full of heart and joy. It is a timeless story about a girl finding hope during a challenging time in her life. Readers aren’t told what is wrong with her mother, so it leaves this story wide-open for discussion about short parent-child separations.  

The intergenerational relationship between the girl and her grandfather shines. He puts her in charge of the sweet pea garden and shows her how to remove old seedpods, tie stems to canes, weed and water the plants with his secret formula. The girl takes pride in her work.

When there is a problem with the sweet peas, it is the girl who researches gardening books, wraps the plants with blankets, and shades the plants from the sun with her Grandma’s umbrellas. When nothing makes a difference, she puts on her thinking cap and discovers why the blooms are fulling off and dying.

Mitchell’s warm and happy illustrations capture an English countryside with cottages surrounded by low stonewalls, friendly neighbors chatting, and children walking dogs. And grandpa’s garden is a wonder to behold for any child eager to help. Mitchell’s artwork is plump with details that kids will enjoy. This book is a perfect gift book and summer read.  

Resources: Encourage kids to help in the flower or vegetable garden, if you have one. If you don’t have a garden, pick out some flower pots and grow tomatoes plants or flowers, including sweet peas. Make sure they know all about what they are planting and put them in charge of watering and weeding.  At the end of the book, Mitchell includes a special note about Sweet Peas. 

Hazel Mitchell is the author-illustrator of Toby, as well as the illustrator of numerous books for children. Originally from Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Maine.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.


About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

18 thoughts on “Sweet Pea Summer by Hazel Mitchell

  1. This sounds like a real gem! I’ve already put in a request at my local library – who can resist an intergenerational story featuring a garden? Certainly not me! Especially when I know that Hazel wrote & illustrated it!


  2. This sounds like a lovely story that touches the heart. I love the illustration on the cover and the intergenerational theme. The relationship between children and grandparents is priceless. Congratulations, Hazel!


  3. I am a fan of intergenerational children’s stories, since it provides opportunities for children to see how their world is populated with people of all ages. A truer reflection of their experience, yes? And the parallels of patience and persistence in dealing with garden issues and worrying about her mother seem well thought out. Will add this one to my ever-growing list. Thank you!


    • Yes, I think that you’d love Hazel’s book. Gardening is symbolic of life and healing a hurting soul. And, it’s perfect place for children to learn from extended family members. Hope you get a copy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of kids don’t know their grandparents. I loved learning to garden from my father. He always set aside a spot for me to plant any flowers I loved and a spot to grow vegetables. I have happy memories of sneaking into the garden and picking pea pods and eating them right of the garden. And, my father’s cherry and peach trees were where I snacked outside. This book brought back so many memories for me. And, I love Hazel’s artwork!


  4. I love Hazell’s art, and this story seems like such a loving one, Pat, also filled with information about growing sweet peas and showing the wonderful relationship between grandfather and granddaughter. I haven’t read it yet, but I would very much like to!


    • Actually, I thought of you when I was reviewing this book, as this is the sort of book you’d be drawn to. Beautiful themes and gorgeous illustrations! Hope you review it and give it more book love!


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