cover image The Heart is Big Enough

The Heart is Big Enough

Michael J. Rosen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $16 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201402-5

Nature is used as a connecting line between isolated individuals as Rosen (Elijah's Angel) integrates biological images (sea mammals, fossils, hybrid flowers, stray morning glories) in five upbeat stories featuring sensitive middle-schoolers. Spending the summer with her grandmother, Frayda ends up pruning the neglected garden at the group home next door and gets to know a resident who everyone on the block assumes is crazy. Working side by side with the woman and sharing her grandmother's tips on raising vegetables, Frayda recognizes how prejudice fuels misconceptions. A common interest in plant life also brings together the young narrator of ""Juggling"" and his slightly eccentric, elderly neighbor, the owner of a parakeet, fish and 420 African violets. When Mrs. Sams is hospitalized with a broken hip during a trip to Australia, Jon expresses his affection and concern by meticulously tending her flowers and pets. The ocean plays a key role in the three remaining stories. While making discoveries about science and themselves, Rosen's young protagonists learn to open their hearts. Ages 9-up. (Apr.)