It is a beautiful day in an urban neighborhood, and Miguel’s two dads take him to the community garden. A sign shows they are here for a community picnic with their friends, but first, Miguel wants to see the sunflowers. While searching for the cheerful plant, the little boy becomes acquainted with the different vegetables grown in the plot. Illustrator, Samara Hardy, generates the vibrant activity of a garden in the many double-page spreads awash in a palette of greens, browns, reds, and oranges. Her childlike style depicts chubby-faced children of all colors and abilities, brightly detailed garden animals and exaggerated close ups of various vegetables, some not as familiar to most young children. A bee cavorts from page to page leading the reader toward the sunflower. This teachable picture book focuses on the clearly outlined drawings and the simple, explanatory text describing how these food staples grow and how to recognize them: apricots, artichokes, cherries, mulberries, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, celery, peppers. Author JaNay Brown-Wood holds a doctorate in Education with a specialty in Child Development. Her writing style evidences her expertise. Teachers of primary grades starting units on nutrition or community will find this pleasant read engaging for students. Beginning readers, too, will benefit from the repetition and pattern in the text.
THOUGHTS: Miguel’s Community Garden reminded me so much of DyAnne DiSalvo’s (Ryan) thirty-year old book, City Green in look and theme. Brown-Wood’s book, though, shows a deliberate use of metacognition. Both a pattern book and informative, young readers can build reading skills and learn valuable facts about food.
Realistic Fiction Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia