Master of the Garden

Peachtree. (Nina Soni: Bk. 3). Apr. 2021. 192p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781682632253.
Gr 2-4–In the third installment of the “Nina Soni” series, Indian American Nina takes up a new hobby after her school’s Take Your Child to Work Day gives her a taste for gardening with her landscape architect mother. Nina (with best friend Jay and little sister Kavita in tow) plunges full steam into a backyard vegetable growing project spanning several months. This thoughtful, entrepreneurial, word-nerd of a fourth grader expands her vocabulary, along with her self-control and patience, as she learns about cultivating vegetables. Nina also tends to her friendship with Jay and bonds with her little sister, with whom she often feels competitive. Thanks to her “list-making mind,” Nina is sometimes two steps ahead of others in her eager planning and must realize the importance of cooperating, and being honest with Jay to keep their friendship strong. Readers also are privy to Nina’s thoughts as she tries to be a good big sister to a sibling with a polar opposite personality. Kavita’s cheerful and fearless approach to life provides comic relief, and Nina’s candor with herself and penchant for introspection allow readers to journey beside her as she grows emotionally. The text is peppered with definitions of words important to the story’s themes, such as responsibility and relieved, and accompanied by bold, expressive grayscale ink and watercolor illustrations that depict Nina’s gardening challenges and successes.
VERDICT Nina ultimately discovers that everyone has different talents—from dancing to gardening—and that the lessons she mastered in patience, perseverance, self-calming, creative problem-solving, and responsibility can apply to other parts of her life. Recommended for fiction collections.

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