Rink Bowagon has an even weirder family than most people. Many of his family members on Lonesome Mountain are shape-shifters, and his uncle trains rattlesnakes. Rink grows flowers, but not in a garden: he grows them all over his body every full moon. He’s shy at school because of his differences, and as a result is shunned by his classmates.
Then one day a girl named Angelina Quiz joins his class, and, despite the other students trying to get her attention, she is interested only in Rink. Rink overcomes his shyness to ask her to the school dance, and she reveals to Rink that she can’t dance because one of her legs is shorter than the other. Rink shows up at her house with flowers from his own body (for of course the dance is on the night of a full moon) and a solution to her problem, and they not only dance but fall in love.
The Boy Who Grew Flowers is a picture book that treats individuality and quirkiness as things to be embraced, not overcome (the author, Jen Wojtowicz, who is also an artist, was inspired to write the book by her relationship with her brother with autism). The story may sound heavy-handed from my description here, but, judging from my kids’ reactions to it it only seems that way to adults–the fantasy on which the story is based prevents, I think, most little kids from realizing the message is there, even while they absorb it. The art, by Steve Adams, is brilliantly done—simple but beautiful, drawing you into the story and never distracting from it. The book is published by Barefoot Books, which is dedicated to combining great art and great stories, and you can definitely see that in this book. (Sample pages can be viewed here and here.)
The Boy Who Grew Flowers is aimed at children ages 4-8, and, with its beautiful art, makes a nice gift.
Full disclosure:* My wife is an independent stallholder for Barefoot Books, and her website is linked to above.*