Harlem Grown, a great bedtime non-fiction book that will inspire Father

You tell some people Harlem and they will either think of the New York City neighborhood or the setting of the classic 1989 Eddie Murphy film. In both cases they have the same backdrop. However, some people will associate it with it Harlem has grown. I had heard about the garden in a message a few years ago and now it’s a fabulous illustrated book that will motivate some kids or just a great good night book for others.

Harlem has grown is a great example of a well-designed illustrated book. Beyond Harlem Grown, the school garden that began in 2011, there are certainly plenty of details. The genius of the book is that it transforms the reason for the garden’s existence into a story that allows aspiring readers to catch up and use their imaginations to add more detail.

The panoramic layout is also perfect for the illustrations in Jessie Hartland’s book. They have a folk take on art that townspeople might think will make the book seem too rural. In reality, however, it adds a casual, playful appearance that compliments the story. Some of the pages focus on the students and the garden; while others withdraw and allow the great garden or the city to take the foremost place. The final pages of the book are a great example of how the impact of the garden can really be seen later.

Tony Hillery’s text is ideal for early elementary school readers because of its brevity. The words, combined with the illustrations, tell a lot more of the story than a book that is twice the size. In this case the sum is really greater than the sum of its parts.

It didn’t start out that great. Mr. Tony began volunteering at PS 175, the elementary school just across from an abandoned property. This lot had garbage strewn on it and was otherwise unsightly, but he had an idea. Bit by bit, he and many volunteers began to clear the trash and finally left them with a dirt field.

This was rounded off with clean, new flooring and the children from the school were invited to help. The children weed, planted and watered, and then watched the plants grow. Some of the plants didn’t grow, but they were encouraged to try different things. They tried raised beds, and then kale, basil, and all kinds of foods would sprout from the garden. This enabled the children to take the food home with them. It provided a place to focus on something productive for children with too much energy who would otherwise have gotten into trouble.

Harlem has grown is the name of the book as well as the garden itself. The book is a great bedtime book and much more. It’s the kind of book that can be read to a child once before bed, if you slow them down and point out the details. However, it is detailed enough that you can point out details in addition to normal reading and two more reads for children who should otherwise be trying to sleep.

The true nature of the story also lends itself to something that slightly older readers might want to read more about. For intermediate readers, there are additional resources at the end of the book. There are also basic steps for starting a garden and a double page spread by its founder Tony Hillery. It will also comfort children and gardening failures that he killed a lot more plants than grew. This is a feel good book that will make you feel great. It provides inspiration to children everywhere to do what happened to this overgrown lot in Harlem in 2011.

Harlem Grown is available from Tony Hillery with illustrations by Jessie Harland and from Simon & Schuster.

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