Sweet Pea Summer by Hazel Mitchell

Hello, Hazel Mitchell! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! I’m so happy you’re here today to celebrate Sweet Pea Summer. I just came in from my garden, and my cat, Lou Grant, is staring at me right now. I very much identify with the cover. 

 Speaking of the cover, please tell us about the characters featured on it.

Hazel Mitchell: Hi, Mr. Schu, and thanks for having me visit. I think that's a brilliant name for a cat. My own cat is called 'Sleep', because that's his favourite thing to do.

That's a brilliant name for a cat!

Hazel Mitchell: The characters on the cover - well, the girl pushing the wheelbarrow is our heroine. She doesn't have a name. The reader can make one up! She's visiting her grandparents for the summer, because her mom is poorly and has to stay in hospital for a while. Then there's grandpa watching from behind the garden gate. He loves to grow flowers and vegetables. While she's staying with him his grand daughter helps in the garden and learns a lot ... especially about growing sweet peas and making sure they are healthy.

There are actually another four characters in this cover illustration, really like secondary characters. First - the sweet peas! They feature pretty heavily in the story (hence the book's title) and take up a lot of our heroine's gardening time. Next - the cats. You see, my inspiration for the story comes from visits with my own grandparents when I was small. They always had a ginger cat and kittens. They were very mischievious. Plus there is the garden itself. In my imagination my grandpa's garden was HUGE. And lastly there's the cottage which you can just see in the background. It's a real cottage and it's still standing in a town called Huddersfield, in Yorkshire (where I come from originally). It looks a little different now. OK ... there's also the landscape, from my memories of where my grandparents lived, complete with woollen mills (long gone now). I guess that's more than four, right? I find much of my inspiration comes from places I have lived and known. There's a lot of pleasure in adding them into my illustrations.

Thank you for that terrific tour of the cover. 
 By permission of Candlewick Press.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Sweet Pea Summer’s illustrations are created by hand in pencil and watercolour on Fabriano Soft Press 140lb. They are very much inspired by the memories of visiting my grandparents in their home and garden and the countryside of West Yorkshire, England.

Sweet peas are wonderful flowers! (But you cannot eat them). They were discovered growing in the wild in Italy by a Franciscan monk in the 17th century and were made popular in Great Britain by the Victorians. By 1910 they were the most popular flower grown in England.

 By permission of Candlewick Press.

Did you know that the latin name for the Sweet Pea is Lathyrus odoratus? And that Popeye's baby was called 'Swee' Pea'? So many people use the term Sweet Pea as an endearment for their children. I am thinking Popeye made it a universal nickname. Perhaps one of your readers knows differently?

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me do I have a garden full of sweet peas? Alas, no. I live in Maine and the very cold winter and sudden onset of summer makes it hard to germinate the Sweet Pea seed as it likes cold conditions (but not two feet of snow!). I always fail to germinate them indoors in time to plant out. Perhaps this is why I admire my heroine's determination to grow them. I am working on growing the perrenial Sweet Pea now, so wish me luck.

Also, (ssssh) here's a secret: my grandpa's preferred flower was the chrysanthemum. But it was really hard to fit into the text, so the grandpa in the story likes Sweet Peas instead.

Thank you, Hazel!

Hazel Mitchell is the author-illustrator of Toby, which was awarded the Dog Writers Association of America’s MAXWELL Medal. She is also the illustrator of numerous books for children, including Borrowing Bunnies by Cynthia Lord, Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood, Animally by Lynn Parrish Sutton, and Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? by Liza Gardner Walsh. Originally from Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Maine.

Borrow Sweet Pea Summer from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.


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