using The Gardener in speech therapy
Frequent Speech Sounds:

​/g/ initial
/j/ initial (Jim)
/l/ initial
/gr/ initial
/ar/ medial


acts of kindness
helping others
making new friends

Book Details:
Diverse Characters: Yes
Age Recommendation: Late Elementary, Middle School

The Gardener

By Sarah Stewart

Lydia Grace Finch brings a suitcase full of seeds to the big gray city, where she goes to stay with her Uncle Jim, a cantankerous baker. There she initiates a gradual transformation, bit by bit brightening the shop and bringing smiles to customers’ faces with the flowers she grows. But it is in a secret place that Lydia Grace works on her masterpiece — an ambitious rooftop garden — which she hopes will make even Uncle Jim smile. Sarah Stewart introduces readers to an engaging and determined young heroine, whose story is told through letters written home, while David Small’s illustrations beautifully evoke the Depression-era setting.

This heart warming spring book can be used in speech therapy to address social/emotional issues like surviving in a time of darkness, helping others and seeing the bright things in life. It is also great for character analysis and for targeting inferencing as well as for describing! Discover more of the speech and language teaching concepts for using The Gardener in speech therapy below: 

Key Teaching Concepts

Narrative Structure:

complete episode

Narrative Concepts:

character analysis
illustration study
verbs (action)
verbs (present progressive)
verbs (regular past tense)


order of events of Lydia helping her Uncle and bringing light to the town that was once dark


Great Depression, railway, anxious, altered, recognizing, humour, window boxes, adore, catalogues, bulbs, knead, Latin, discovered, vacant, plot, sprucing, retire

Character Analysis:

Lydia leaves home to help her Uncle. She is dedicated to her work and making her Uncle happy. At the end, she plans a big surprise that brings some light to his “survival mode”.


Lydia comes to the town in a time of darkness and changes it for the better. Her hard working personality breaks through her Uncle’s tough exterior.


verbs (action)
verbs (present progressive)
verbs (regular past tense)


How did Lydia feel according to her first letter?
How did Lydia feel according to the second letter?
How do you think Lydia feels on the train?
What is she thinking when she arrives in the city?
How do the illustrations convey the feeling of the time period?
What can you infer about Uncle Jim’s personality?
How does Lydia feel about working so far?
What do you think about Lydia’s personality?
How do you think she feels about being called “The Gardener”?
How do you think Uncle Jim feels about his surprise?
How has the mood of the illustrations and town changed?
How do they feel when Lydia goes back home?

If you are interested in seeing other spring books to use in therapy, then check out the Narrative Teaching Points Book List for a printable copy.