Gardening and Community

Spring­time in Min­neso­ta can appear almost overnight. One day, snow still coats the ground. The next, cro­cus and squill pop up through earthy brown. Like­wise, we can go  months with­out ful­ly see­ing neigh­bors, due to the frigid tem­per­a­tures, and bun­dled bod­ies.  But then, one warm day, it’s like a neigh­bor­hood reunion. We can phys­i­cal­ly see and talk to each oth­er again. It’s eas­i­er to greet and wel­come new­com­ers. We can appre­ci­ate our shared spaces. We can cre­ate new ones. 

To encour­age plant­i­ng seeds to save the envi­ron­ment, to bright­en spir­its, and to instill a sense of con­nec­tion and pos­si­bil­i­ty, I like to read the fol­low­ing books that focus on gar­den­ing and com­mu­ni­ty. Read and grow!

Any­where Farm
writ­ten by Phyl­lis Root
illus­trat­ed by G. Bri­an Karas
Can­dlewick Press, 2017

Jaun­ty, rhyming text and under­stat­ed yet joy­ful illus­tra­tions show­case a wide range of chil­dren and neigh­bors build­ing a com­mu­ni­ty gar­den. A very appeal­ing read-aloud to intro­duce the idea of grow­ing where you can.

Behold Our Mag­i­cal Gar­den:
Poems Fresh from a School Gar­den
writ­ten by Allan Wolf
illus­trat­ed by Daniel Dun­can
Can­dlewick Press, 2022

In this beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed col­lec­tion of poems, young read­ers expe­ri­ence a sea­son in a school gar­den through a range of per­spec­tives: from chil­dren, insects, seeds, and carrots. 

Errol’s Gar­den
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Gillian Hibbs
Child’s Play, 2018

Errol loves to gar­den, but runs out of room in his apart­ment.  Then he real­izes that there’s more room, UP!  With the help of neigh­bors, Errol plans some­thing amazing.

Farmer Will Allen and the Grow­ing Table
writ­ten by Jacque­line Brig­gs Mar­tin
illus­trat­ed by Eric-Shabazz Larkin
Read­ers to Eaters, 2013

This live­ly pic­ture book biog­ra­phy intro­duces young read­ers to Milwaukee’s famous urban farmer, Will Allen. A for­mer pro­fes­sion­al bas­ket­ball play­er, his work is high­light­ed in this col­or­ful book, inspir­ing young read­ers to think about where their food comes from.

Green Green: A Com­mu­ni­ty Gar­den­ing Sto­ry
writ­ten by Marie Lam­ba and Baldev Lam­ba
illus­trat­ed by Sonia Sanchez
Square Fish, 2017

Through sim­ple, poet­ic text, and emo­tion­al­ly res­o­nant illus­tra­tions, a small group of chil­dren expe­ri­ence the joys of green and brown as their city changes. With build­ings encroach­ing, they encour­age new green growth by dig­ging and plant­i­ng, work­ing together. 

Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea
Trans­formed a Neigh­bor­hood

writ­ten by Tony Hillery
illus­trat­ed by Jessie Hart­land
Simon & Schus­ter, 2020

Nevaeh and her friends help Mr. Tony trans­form a ‘haunt­ed’ gar­den into a thriv­ing urban farm in this whim­si­cal­ly-illus­trat­ed cel­e­bra­tion of growing.

In Our Gar­den
writ­ten by Pat Ziet­low Miller
illus­trat­ed by Melis­sa Crow­ton
G.P. Put­nam, 2022

Through the eyes of a new­com­er from over­seas, class­mates and teach­ers begin to see the pos­si­bil­i­ties of what could be, instead of just what is. Full of school and gar­den details, young read­ers see a school rooftop trans­formed through imag­i­na­tion, orga­niz­ing, hard work, and time. 

Jayden’s Secret Ingre­di­ent
writ­ten by Méli­na Man­gal
illus­trat­ed by Ken Daley
Free Spir­it, 2023

Jay­den loves the out­doors and the gar­den he cre­at­ed with his friend Mr. Cur­tis. But he’s not so sure about sam­pling some of the garden’s pro­duce. When Mr. Cur­tis invites neigh­bors to share the har­vest of scar­let run­ner beans, Jay­den faces a dilem­ma. Will he find the courage to try some­thing new?

Miguel’s Com­mu­ni­ty Gar­den
writ­ten by JaNay Brown-Wood
illus­trat­ed by Sama­ra Hardy
Peachtree, 2022

Miguel and his dads search through the com­mu­ni­ty gar­den for sun­flow­ers for his gar­den par­ty. But he finds so much more before that!  Young read­ers will enjoy the hunt for the flow­ers while learn­ing about a wide range of oth­er plants in the garden.

Thank You, Gar­den
writ­ten by Liz Gar­ton Scan­lon
illus­trat­ed by Simone Shin
Beach Lane Books, 2020

With vin­tage-like illus­tra­tions by Calde­cott-Hon­or Award illus­tra­tor Simone Shin, this pic­ture book cel­e­brates the growth of flow­ers, veg­eta­bles, and friend­ships between com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers in this city garden.

Uncle John's City Garden

Uncle John’s City Gar­den
writ­ten by Ber­nette G. Ford
illus­trat­ed by Frank Mor­ri­son
Hol­i­day House, 2022

With guid­ance from her Uncle John, Li’l Sis­sy proves she can work just as hard as her sib­lings to cre­ate an amaz­ing gar­den in the mid­dle of the city. Beau­ti­ful­ly emo­tive illus­tra­tions bring the joy and warmth of fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty togeth­er along with the love of fresh-grown produce. 

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David LaRochelle
2 years ago

What a great crop of books!