Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood by Tony Hillery, illustrated by Jessie Hartland

 

Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood 
illustrated by Jessie Hartland
Review Copy from Simon & Schuster


With Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood, Tony Hillery tells the story of how he and the students of PS 175 transformed a vacant lot across the street from their school into a farm that now grows thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables that they give, for free, to neighbors and the surrounding community. And, from this experience, Hillery started Harlem Grown, a non-profit that has expanded to twelve garden sites across Harlem, with two full-time employees and a thriving (until the pandemic) summer camp program. Hillery doesn't just teach kids how to grow food, he also teaches them about the food desert that they live in, having them count the number of delis, fast food restaurants and pharmacies around their school then compare that number to the number of markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

Volunteering at PS 175 in the wake of closing his business in 2010, Hillery noticed that students had a lot of pent-up energy that they couldn't always control. Noticing the vacant, trash filled lot across the street, he had the idea to teach the kids how to garden, admitting that he has "killed more plants than [he] has been able to grow!" With the fictional Neveah as the main character of the story, Hillery and Hartland share the story, from the birth of an idea to the trial-and-error plantings that eventually fed the students and nearby neighbors. While stories of community gardens and the people they bring together (Paul Fleischman's Seedfolks is a standout novella about a neighborhood garden) have been popping up in children's books for a while now, Hillery's straightforward, joyful story - not to mention the real story of the non-profit that also grew from this garden - is a welcome addition to the shelves!

Backmatter includes an author's note, steps on how to start a garden anywhere and resources for kids and adults.

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