Friday, January 8, 2016

The Friendship Garden: Green Thumbs-Up! by Jenny Meyerhoff, illustrated by Eva Chatelain

I liked some aspects of this, but I'm not sure it stands out enough from the crowd of beginning chapter books to make it onto our shelves.

Anna has just moved to Chicago and started third grade and she would really like some new friends. She also misses her family's garden and fresh food from back home and her family on the whole is adjusting to having her dad home and her mom working. When her class gets an assignment to write a persuasive speech and Anna discovers the local community garden, she has an idea - what if she could get kids involved? Maybe she could make friends AND have a garden again?

I liked the realism of this - not all the kids jumped at the chance to do hard work in the garden and Anna did not become instantly popular. There were problems with rules and the parents were busy and couldn't help. Anna does some silly stuff that's embarrassing and she doesn't make instant-friends with anyone. However, in the end there's a generally positive result, kids and adults get involved, and Anna has some hope of settling into her new home and making friends.

The black and white pictures are cute without being too cartoonish and show a fairly diverse classroom of kids. I found the parts about Anna's dad not being a good cook to be rather stereotypical. Granted, his wife is a chef and Anna is used to eating fancier food, but I have a hard time seeing how an adult adjusting to a new situation would think it was a good idea to experiment with recipes (especially when they're not good at it). The recipes and garden instructions in the back were a nice challenge.

Verdict: Overall, this was a sweet, gentle story about moving to a new place and the challenges and joys of urban gardening. It's not uncommon for kids in my area to move back and forth from Chicago, so there could be some local interest there as well. Not a required purchase, but a nice addition.

ISBN: 9781481439060; Published 2015 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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