Miss Jaster lives in a lovely house in a garden near the sea. In the corner of that same garden lives Hedgie, a gentle hedgehog who occasionally meets Miss Jaster just after sunset, when they both enjoy strolling through the garden. Kind Miss Jaster offers Hedgie saucers of milk, but because she can't see very well, she has difficulty telling his head from his tail. Sometimes she sets the bowl of milk at the wrong end of the little hedgehog. When this happens, Hedgie politely dips his tale into the milk and pretends to drink, so he won't hurt her feelings. Hedgie enjoys listening to Miss Jaster play the piano in the evenings. It is a satisfying, peaceful life for them both.
Miss Jaster loves to garden. One day Hedgie is napping in the garden bed, and when Miss Jaster rakes the bed, sprinkles the seeds, and showers it with her watering can, Hedgie is right there in the middle being raked, sprinkled, and watered. The flowers that sprout from Miss Jaster's garden lead Hedgie on a sweet and surprising adventure.
This book has gorgeous illustrations that remind me of Edward Gorey's work (if you can picture an untwisted, cheerful, colorful version of his work, that is - something that might stretch the imagination a tad). Bodecker is also the illustrator of Edward Eager's wonderful books Half Magic and Knight's Castle. Miss Jaster's Garden has a timeless quality to it, so that although the book is from 1972, it does not seem at all dated. I love the map of the garden at on the front and back inside covers - I used to enjoy poring over such maps when I was a girl - and my own children did just that after we read the book together, tracing the locations of the story's events with their fingers.
This book appears to be out of print; we got our copy from the library. And you should, too.
Awards: New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book
Miss Jaster's Garden by N. M. Bodecker (Golden Books, 1972)