Monday, May 27, 2019

Review - Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden

Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden
by Andrew Larsen
illustrated by Anne Villeneuve
Date: 2019
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Vincent is staying with his aunt Mimi for the summer while his mom recuperates from surgery. Mimi's drab city neighborhood, complete with an empty dirt lot across the street, doesn't seem too promising. But then Vincent meets Toma, a boy who lives nearby, and things start looking up. Mimi has a mysterious box of "dirt balls" in her apartment. When she asks Vincent to get rid of them, the fun Vincent and Toma have throwing them into the lot becomes the start of a budding friendship. Then one day, they notice new shoots sprouting all over the lot. Maybe those balls weren't just made of dirt after all!

Bestselling author Andrew Larsen brings a light touch and gentle humor to this picture book story about several kinds of growth -- of the boys and their friendship, the flowers in the newly thriving lot, and the community that comes together around it. Award-winning artist Anne Villeneuve's illustrations add a visual layer to the storytelling as they show the transformation from mostly gray to vibrant color, both literally, in the blossoming garden, and figuratively, in the now engaged neighborhood. This book highlights the value of connecting to nature, even in urban areas, and the sense of community that comes from civic engagement. It's an excellent choice for character education lessons on kindness, generosity and citizenship.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a well-written story with a nice message.

Vincent is staying with his aunt Mimi for the summer. A secret admirer has given her a box of dirt balls. Not knowing what to do with them, she asks Vincent to get rid of them for her. He decides to throw them over the wall into a vacant lot, and enlists the help of another little boy, Toma, to do it. The two become friends... but the story isn't over yet. Because those dirt balls had a secret...

There's a real sense of community in these pages. The urban setting seems harsh at first, but eventually it serves as a backdrop for all sorts of wonderful things: friendship, cooperation, and a shared purpose.

I'm not sure I'm that enamoured with the illustrations. They're fine, I guess, and highlight the changes that go on in the neighbourhood toward the latter part of the book. The writing is quite strong, though, and I really enjoyed the story.

Quotable moment:

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.83 out of 5

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