A vacant lot seems like the WORST possible place to plant a garden. Old tires and trashbags. Broken glass and bad soil. A rusty refridgerator and rats everywhere! First a young Vietnamese girl named Kim plants lima beans in memory of her father. Then Tio Juan, an old man from Guatemala who speaks no English, plants hot peppers. Suddenly the lot on Gibb Street becomes the hottest spot in the neighborhood! From tomatoes to lettuce to goldenrod, from Great Britain to Haiti to India, this diverse group of total strangers who would normally never even talk to each other comes together to cultivate the earth in this delightful little novel called Seedfolks
by Paul Fleischman.
"No one had spoken to me before, and now how friendly they turned out to be." - Amir, gardener from India
I loved the way each short chapter tells the story of a different character. One of my favorites is Leona, an African American woman who tries for days to get someone from the government to get the trash in the Gibb Street garden cleaned up. When she gets no response, Leona has the guts to show up at the Public Health Department...with a bag of stinky garbage from the lot. Guess who got her meeting with the officials then
Another story I liked is told by Amir, a man from India who runs a fabric store. He recognizes one of the other gardeners as a former customer who was extremely rude to Amir after she thought he had short-changed her. Later, when the two meet at Gibb Street, she apologizes over and over and they become friends.
At only 70 pages and 13 chapters, Seedfolks
left me wanting to know what happens to all of these interesting characters. Like Maricela, the 16 y.o. from Mexico who plants Swiss chard and squash as part of a teen pregnancy outreach program. Or Curtis, a 28 y.o. African American male who tries to win back the heart of his former girlfriend, Lateesha, by planting her favorite - tomatoes. While Paul Fleischman leaves the future lives of his characters open-ended, his message of hope will leave readers more than satisfied. Read it!
For another short but sweet novel for teens, try Bronx Masquerade
by Nikki Grimes or A Raisin in the Sun
by Lorraine Hansberry.