Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
One girl's motivation and cheery attitude buoys this picture book about urban renewal and community action. Young Marcy is saddened after the city condemns and demolishes a building in her neighborhood. ``Now this block looks like a big smile with one tooth missing,'' she laments. But as springtime arrives, Marcy's thoughts turn to gardens and flowers. She and her neighbor Miss Rosa decide to clean up the lot and plant seeds there. Soon nearly everyone on the street joins in, donating time, energy and supplies to create a lush green oasis. Even crabby Old Man Hammer eventually warms up to the new look. DiSalvo-Ryan's ( Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen ) well-paced text imparts a wealth of information and emotion without sentimentalizing or preaching. The tone of Marcy's narration is occasionally poignant and always very childlike. Watercolor-and-pencil vignettes depict an overwhelmingly brown city landscape enlivened by a colorfully clad cast of ethnically diverse neighbors and, finally, a bountiful rainbow of plants. The kindly expressions of the various gardeners provide added warmth, making DiSalvo-Ryan's fictional block a nice place to visit. A helpful page of instructions for starting a community garden is also included. Ages 5-up. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
This is the story of a young protagonist who sees a building demolished in her neighborhood and thinks her block looks like "a big smile with one tooth missing." When the empty lot fills with junk, Marcy and her neighbor, Miss Rosa, organize their community to lease the land, clean up the trash, and plant a communal garden. The book's last page gives steps to follow in creating a community or classroom garden. This book can help children build a sense of community responsibility and interdependence.
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
This story begins when a dilapidated building in the middle of a city block is condemned and torn down. This leaves an empty space and makes the block look "like a big smile with one tooth missing." When Marcy and her neighbor Miss Rosa begin their regular spring gardens-in coffee cans-Old Man Hammer reminds them that the vacant lot has plenty of dirt, but it's city property and can't be touched. Marcy and Miss Rosa rent the lot and with Marcy's mother start to clear the lot. Then the neighbors begin to see what's happening. Suddenly everyone seems to be painting, building, digging and planting, and by the middle of the summer the lot is full of vegetables and flowers. This neighborhood is very nicely mixed up with African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Caucasians. A set of instructions on how to lease a vacant lot wraps up the book.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-There is a garbage-filled, vacant lot on the street where Marcy lives. Instead of growing flowers in coffee cans like they usually do each spring, she and her friend Miss Rosa decide to plant a garden there. Old Man Hammer, who used to live in the building that was torn down, believes that they're getting their hopes up for nothing, but Marcy and Miss Rosa lease the spot from the city. Their enthusiasm and energy spread and everyone in the neighborhood joins together to create an urban oasis. Even Old Man Hammer sneaks into it at night and secretly plants seeds that grow into bright sunflowers. This is a pleasant, positive story of cooperation that features multiethnic characters. DiSalvo-Ryan's double-page illustrations are rendered in watercolors, pencil, and crayons. Although the story is a bit predictable-it is obvious that Old Man Hammer will eventually join in the community spirit-the book is genuinely warm and will appeal to children.-Mary Rinato Berman, New York Public Library