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Children's Fiction General

The Imperfect Garden

by (author) Melissa Assaly

illustrated by April dela Noche Milne

Fitzhenry and Whiteside
Initial publish date
Jul 2019
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2019
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3


What do you think a two-legged carrot would taste like?
What about a crabby faced apple?

Jay makes some surprising discoveries after he plants and cares for a garden with his mother one summer. Jay learns that naturally grown food can grow to look different than what he is used to buying at the grocery store. He is delighted to discover the hilarious, misshapen fruits and vegetables. To his amazement, they all taste the same, maybe better even! What a waste it would be to throw them out.

It seems foolish that we throw away an absurd amount of food because it looks a little different. When you think about places in the world where they have famines and even the poverty and hunger here at home it doesn't make sense. It seems most adults have become food snobs. Luckily, I know that children are the opposite, they love funny shaped foods.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Melissa Assaly
is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and son, Jay, in Toronto, Ontario. When she is not teaching she enjoys travelling and cooking. She especially enjoys gardening with Jay and finding funny shaped fruits and vegetables!

April dela Noche Milne
is a freelance illustrator born in Montreal and raised in Vancouver. She enjoys drawing, reading, and planning elaborate birthday parties for herself. This is her first children's book. Visit her at

Editorial Reviews

"Assaly's narrative drives home the point: Fresh produce needn't be cosmetically perfect to be nourishing and tasty. . . A diverse family conveys a noteworthy message about food waste and the value of home gardening."
Kirkus Reviews

"Here's a book that's clever, sweet, and provides some very useful information. . . The message stated throughout, in helpful ways. . . produce is not affected by its looks, and a way to reduce food waste is by using it, even with a few bumps or bruises."
ALA Booklist

"The collaborative work of author Melissa Assaly and illustrator April Dela Noche Milne, "The Imperfect Garden" is a charmingly entertaining and very special picture book for children ages 5-8 that is unreservedly recommended for family, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections."
The Midwest Book Review

"The story impresses upon young readers that produce need not be perfect nor uniform in order to be nutritious or delicious, and, in that, Assaly succeeds. . . April dela Noche Milne's vividly coloured artwork emphasizes greens and earth tones, with orange and red used to highlight ripe produce.
4 stars out of 5"
CM Magazine

"This narrative balances the gentle lessons of a mom opening her child's mind to nourishment from food that stretches beyond our culture being "used to the ones in the store" with the unhindered joy of a child finding "cucumbers growing on vines in all kinds of twirly-whirly shapes!". . . The author's note finishes the book with a powerful explanation of food waste and how to start small when planting with children. The text is rich with adjectives and could be used as a "listen and visualize" activity to increase children's ability to connect and predict. Great for: teaching about food waste, encouraging environmental sustainability, engaging children in growing their own food, classroom library, descriptive writing."
Canadian Teacher Magazine

"A great introduction to gardening. A good way to get children excited to help by first getting the garden area ready, planting seeds and harvesting, eating, baking and cooking the vegetables and fruit. It made me remember when my children and had a big garden and we all worked in it to produce our own vegetables. We had so much fun. Now is a good time to read this with your child and then you can start your own garden with your children."
Kiss the Book blog