Review by Booklist Review
Inspired by a Brooklyn community plot, this tells of a young African American girl who sees her city as "a place to grow, a place to play, a place to love." In her multicultural neighborhood filled with cement sidewalks, stone buildings, paved streets, and empty lots, the girl imagines introducing something green to her life. She plants seeds in a tomato can that falls from her windowsill and rolls into a nearby empty lot. The child and her black-and-white stuffed bear care for the seedling that takes root. Though the girl must leave home for a while, she entrusts her bear to supervise activities and the garden lot blooms. Oliver used Photoshop to complete the mixed-media, cut-paper illustrations. The front endpapers show a bird's-eye view of the city with a marker revealing where the Bear's Garden is located; the final endpapers show the same map with other community gardens that have sprung up in nearby neighborhoods. Like Susan Verde's Hey, Wall (2018), a simple, powerful ode to community betterment.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
A black girl sees "the big, bustling city" as "a place to grow, a place to play, a place to love" in this affectionate ode to a community garden. In striking illustrations that combine sharp geometric forms with expressive brushy textures, Oliver shows the girl planting a seed in a tomato can that tips off the windowsill: "One night, the girl's imagination/ spilled onto the sidewalk,/ rolled across the street,/ and sprouted." "A baby garden!" she exclaims, caring for its seedlings until the unlikely lot blooms into "A place to grow,// A place to play,// A place to love," watched over by a beloved bear the child left behind. In an author's note, Colleen shares the foundation of her fanciful tale: "The Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear's Community Garden was founded in 1985 and named for a teddy bear that was sitting in the weeds." Ages 3--6. (Mar.)
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Review by School Library Journal Review
K-Gr 2--An unnamed, brown-skinned girl with imagination, a seedling, and a stuffed panda bear is the catalyst for a community garden in her busy neighborhood. Despite being under her stuffed panda's watchful eye, the girl's seedling tumbles from her window, rolls across the street, and sprouts in the vacant lot where it comes to rest. "A baby garden!" cries the delighted girl upon finding her errant seedling. After she lavishes it with love, water, and protection, more seedlings grow, as does the interest of her busy neighbors. When the girl goes on a trip, she leaves her panda--stuffed full of her hope and love--in charge of watching over the garden. In her absence and with the help of the whole neighborhood, her baby garden becomes a place to grow, to play, and to love, for everyone. Colleen's text captures the hope, humor, and love of the protagonist. Oliver's illustrations not only mirror the text but tell important parts of the story. She uses single- and double-page spreads and panels, and her mostly dark background palette allows her foreground characters to pop in a wonderful way. She even manages to covey the emotions of the panda with subtle changes to its eyes and mouth. VERDICT An imaginative little girl who can always see the beauty in things transforms the empty city lot across from her apartment and in turn her neighborhood. A great addition to the growing urban gardens genre, and a good general purchase.--Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
One little girl understands that urban spaces need tender loving care.When a little black girl with her hair in two puffballs looks at her city street, she sees people who rarely slow down enough to imagine the possibilities of beauty around them. But she does. Faithfully including her stuffed panda, she plants a seed in a tin can. When the can falls off the windowsill and the seedling takes root in a vacant lot, she watches it grow, and then the other seedlings that spread around it. When she must leave for a while, she charges her panda with tending the plants. Upon her return, she discovers a surprising number of good things that have happened in her absence. Inspired by a true story of a stuffed bear found in what has become the Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear's Community Garden, this tale of urban renewal shows how one person with an imagination, a little dirt, and a few seeds can transform a concrete village into something beautiful. Oliver's endpapers depict maps of the garden sitethe front endpapers sans garden and the rear ones featuring colorful flowers on several street corners. Throughout the illustrations, the background remains black, dark gray, or dark green, but as the garden grows, the darkness becomes less noticeable as the garden takes over the block and the blue sky appears above it.A well-illustrated, beautifully written tale of encouragement for budding gardeners. (Picture book. 3-7) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.