“The inspiring story of how a simple vision for a neglected lot in New York City leads to healthy food and exercise for local students and their families and neighbors.”
When “Mr. Tony” Hillery visits Harlem’s Public School 175, he notices from the school window a vacant, littered lot in the otherwise bustling neighborhood. Nevaeh, a student at the school, has dubbed the lot the “haunted garden,” but Mr. Tony invites her, her classmates, and the community to help him clean it up and convert it to a community garden. Though Nevaeh’s initial plant withers and dies, Mr. Tony encouragingly says, “We’ll try again.” In the end, the garden is so successful that the students are able to take home fresh grown fruits and vegetables to their families, and the garden spreads from one location to over ten plots throughout Harlem. An Author’s Note shares a lot of the impressive details about author “Mr. Tony” Hillery’s actual development of the Harlem Grown gardens, which provide local kids an alternative to the myriad of unhealthy food options in their community as well as a good outlet for their abundant energy. Hartland’s gouache illustrations are fluid and particularly excellent in portraying the city landscape—incorporating many details those familiar with Harlem’s rich culture and history will appreciate, like the Apollo Theater—and depicting the garden’s transformation from barren lot to beautiful, thriving garden that inspires life and light throughout the entire neighborhood.
What Kind of Book is Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood
A lovely true story about the power of urban gardening in transforming a community—the illustrations are just okay though, and I've found other recent community garden tellings more compelling (such as The Bear's Garden).
Tony Hillery is the founder and executive director of Harlem Grown. In 2011 he began volunteering at a public elementary school in Harlem. It was then that he noticed the vacant lot across from the street and had a big idea. The rest is history. Tony lives in New York, New York. Harlem Grown is his picture book debut.
Jessie Hartland (jessiehartland.com) has written and illustrated many picture books, including Steve Jobs: Insanely Great!, How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum, Bon Appetit: the Delicious Life of Julia Child, and How the Meteorite got to the Museum. Her paintings have been exhibited in Venice, Tokyo, Long Island, and New York City. She has painted murals at a Japanese amusement park, designed Christmas windows for Bloomingdale’s, and put her mark on ceramics, watches, and all sorts of other things. Her illustrations have appeared in the New York Times, Travel and Leisure Family, Martha Stewart Kids, Bon Appetit, and Fit Pregnancy. She lives in New York City.
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