Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden by Andrew Larsen
ME, TOMA AND THE CONCRETE GARDEN
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.