cover image Grow


Juanita Havill, , illus. by Stanislawa Kodman. . Peachtree, $14.95 (159pp) ISBN 978-1-56145-441-9

Reminiscent of Paul Fleischman's Seedfolks , this novel in verse shows how an inner-city community garden brings neighbors together. A series of poems written from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl, Kate, traces the evolution of a littered vacant lot into the pride of the neighborhood. The transformation requires hard work, mostly from Berneetha, a retired teacher and dedicated gardener (“She's big./ She's round./ There's a lot of her” and she shows up to reclaim the plot “looking like the Fourth of July/ and it barely being May”). Others, touched by Barneetha's efforts, help, too, among them Harlan (at first Kate sees him as a “graffiti gangsta”), whose abusive father almost runs him down in his low-rider truck (and hits Berneetha's cat instead); Dr. Arockiasamy from the neighborhood clinic (“ 'Call me Chitra,' she says,/ surprising me, but why?/ Did I think her first name was 'doctor'?”), and a firefighter who comes up with a solution when the land is designated to become a parking garage. While the trajectory of Havill's (Jamaica's Find ) plot is familiar, the target audience will hear the freshness in Kate's voice as she delivers a message of hope and resilience. Final art not seen by PW . Ages 8-12. (Apr.)