Dear Mr. G – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Today’s perfect picture book selection depicts an intergenerational friendship filled with love, humor, and a tinge of sadness. It starts when a young boy’s errant soccer ball blasts its way into his neighbor’s rose bushes. The boy, Jackson, writes a letter to his neighbor, Mr. Graham, apologizing and offering scones that he and his mother have made.

Text ©Christine Evans Illus. ©Gracey Zhang

Thus begins an epistolary and in-person relationship that deepens over time. Mr. Graham teaches Jackson how to care for rose bushes, and they attend each other’s birthday parties. When Mr. Graham moves into an assisted living home, the letters and visits continue. In one letter, Jackson tells Mr. G that a person has trampled Mr. G’s rose bushes while putting up a For Sale sign.

Text ©Christine Evans Illus. ©Gracey Zhang

Mr. G reassures Jackson that all will be well if he moves the bushes and cares for them, which Jackson does. When they drop their leaves for winter, and Jackson is upset, Mr. G reassures him once again that they’re just sleeping through the winter, writing “they’re always there, even if you can’t see them.” There are other loving touches throughout the story that I am tempted to describe, but I want you to experience them for yourself.

The ending shows Jackson and Mr. G’s friends at the assisted living facility planting roses in the center’s garden. Mr. G is not present, and Jackson’s last letter lets us know how much he misses Mr. G.

But an important seed about learning how to deal with loss has already been planted in the reader’s mind:

They're always there, even if you can't see them.

This deft handling of Mr. G’s death is gentle and reassuring. It focuses on what lasts—memories and lessons learned about how to care for others and the world around you.

The expressive watercolor illustrations beautifully depict Jackson, Mr. G, and their flowering friendship. Congrats to Christine Evans and Gracey Zhang on creating such a tender and sweet book!


At the author’s launch party, Christine included an activity where kids could write letters and/or draw pictures on cards that would be included in Meals on Wheels deliveries. I think that’s a fabulous idea. If there are older people in your neighborhood, you can get a group of friends together (or do this as a class) and write them letters or make art for them, and then either mail them to their houses, or deliver them by hand (with the help of an adult). Or you could take your cards to an assisted living or long term care facility and give them to residents there.

With the help of an adult, plant a rose bush in your yard, and learn how to feed, water, and prune it.

If a grandparent or other special older friend or family member lives far away, try writing a letter to them every month or two, and invite them to write back, if they can. You can also include photos or pictures you’ve drawn.

If you can’t plant roses, make origami roses, instead.

Title: Dear Mr. G

Author: Christine Evans

Illustrator: Gracey Zhang

Publisher: Union Square Kids, 2023

Ages: Elementary school

Themes: intergenerational friendship, letter writing, dealing with grief

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.

8 thoughts on “Dear Mr. G – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Patricia Tilton says:

    So much empathy in the beautiful story! I love the gentle relationship between the boy and the neighbor. It would be a lovely way to introduce kids to loss. I’m always looking for books to recommend to have on the shelf in the event of a sudden loss. Loved your review.

  2. Maria Marshall says:

    You and Leslie were on the same wavelength this week. While this is a great book on fridnship, grief, & gardening, it’s also a great book on the lost art of letter writting. As much as a single card delivered to a Senior home or Meals on Wheels brings joy, for any seniors abile it might be fun to create intergenerational penpals. Thanks for featuring this book!

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