Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden

illus. by Anne Villeneuve. 32p. Kids Can. May 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781771389174.
K-Gr 3—While Vincent is staying with his Aunt Mimi, he finds a box of dirt balls on her balcony. Dirt balls? Mimi said a friend sent them and he can use them if he'd like. When Vincent meets a boy his age, Toma, they decide that tossing the dirt balls into an empty lot is a good way to pass the day. Soon, a once curmudgeonly neighbor spies a few sprouts breaking through the soil and shows the boys how to care for them. Before long, the lot has flowers growing and the once drab apartment complex begins to blossom. The ink and watercolor art moves from stark, bland drawings to glimpses of green and the promise of what is to come. The book ends with all the colors of a thriving garden visited by apartment residents. This is a book of the beauty of interaction; the neighbors who come together in the garden, the boys who become fast friends, and the seeds hidden in deceptively simple dirt balls. All it takes is a bit of nourishment and care. Pair this with Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson & Sydney Smith to explore the importance of even the smallest of gestures.
VERDICT A lovely addition to libraries and classrooms, especially those looking for multicultural characters and insightful books about friendship.

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