The essay interprets the doubled narrative of the picture book The Gardener, illustrated by David Small and authored by Sarah Stewart, as a simulation of relational therapy as practiced with traumatized children. Because traumatized children often struggle to articulate what has happened to them in a psychical framework as they experience contradictory feelings, relational therapy seeks to trace a healthy narrative from these inchoate feelings for healing. Comparably, when reading the picture book The Gardener, one easily notices that the pictures and words do not jibe emotionally. Small’s illustrations portray the main character’s feelings of being overwhelmed, while Stewart’s words, using a first-person narrative, voice the main character’s feelings of confidence. Noting patterns of transference, role modeling, and contradiction, the essay explores the picture book’s art as the main character’s psychoanalytic process of adapting to trying circumstances through scripting her own situation. The fictional circumstance parallels closely psychoanalytic cases of both an older adopted child’s attempt to adapt to new parents as well as the illustrator’s own creative process to redeem his abusive childhood memories portrayed in his 2009 graphic novel Stitches: A Memoir.


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pp. 213-225
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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