Once Upon a Story
January 30, 2015

In Mary’s Garden by Tina and Carson Kugler

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release date: March 17, 2015

Ages: 6-9

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

While the rest of her classmates were making pastries in cooking classes, Mary Nohl was making art—anything she fancied out of anything she could find. Inspiration struck Mary even when she wasn’t looking for it. Mary used common objects to make uncommon art. And one day, her garden was a gallery. 

        Mary Nohl passed away in 2001 at the age of eighty-seven. Her famous garden gallery is located in the front yard of her Fox Point, Wisconsin, home to this day.


About the Authors:

Tina and Carson Kugler both grew up in Milwaukee influenced by Mary Nohl’s garden of fantastical creatures. They blossomed into professional artists and created three rather loud creatures of their own. After years of dreaming about how to turn Mary’s wonderland into a book, Tina and Carson combined traditional and digital collage elements to capture the spirit of Mary’s art. The Kuglers currently reside in Los Angeles where Carson is a storyboard supervisor for Nickelodeon Animation, and Tina is a full-time children’s book illustrator. Visit Carson online at www.carsonkugler.squarespace.com , and Tina at www.tinakugler.squarespace.com.


My thoughts:

One of the wonderful things about social media is that you get to connect with people you might not get the chance to meet in real life.

Tina is one of those people. I “met” her on Twitter over a year ago (maybe? longer?) and have been admiring her art since then. You may recognize her  as the illustrator of The Change Your Name Store, which appeared here awhile back.

Now Tina is set to release her second book, a collaboration with her husband, Carson, and I’m so excited to be able to get an early sneak peek.  I know this book has been a work of heart for Tina, and it shows.

As with the best picture book biographies, this book focuses on Mary Nohl the way children will understand her best…as a child. Better yet, she’s a child with dogs. The Kuglers could have chosen to overlook this fact. It is, after all, Mary who ultimately creates these amazing garden sculptures, not the dogs. But the dogs were important to Mary, and so play an integral part of this story, too. Besides…what child doesn’t like a story with dogs?

It’s on an ordinary walk on the beach that Mary and her dogs first discover the little scraps of treasure. And then there’s more. And more. And more. Treasure most people would ignore, or throw into the trash, but that Mary uses to create her first piece of sculpture art. And after that piece, there’s more. And more. And more.

The text reads easily. There’s a smooth rhythm to it that parallels the day in and day out passage of time that leads us from finding that first scrap, to the magnificent sculpture garden that eventually surrounded the Nohl family’s lakeside cottage. The illustrations, like the sculptures, are a blend of colors, textures and mediums. We see what Mary sees: her scraps of paper with her big ideas, her colorful travels, her beloved lakeside cottage, her magnificent garden.

The garden where she always had room for “one more stone, one more shell, one more friend.”


You’ll have to wait a little longer to hold this book in your hands. But In Mary’s Garden is available for preorder now.


Have a wonderful weekend, friends.



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