Want to teach your child ecology, patience, and community all at once? So often, community gardens are an oasis of green space as well as inclusion in urban life.
When we first married and lived in an apartment, we rented a little space in a nearby community garden. I loved going out to our plot in the evenings, when it was cool. Half of the neighborhood was there as well! The community garden was a supremely social space, and people often brought music and food to share.
Here are wonderful children’s books that convey that sense of sharing and well-being that community gardens represent. Are you part of a community garden? Share your story in the comments!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Community Gardens: Books for Kids
Though How to Grow a Friend never mentions community gardens by name, it is a lovely way to teach children about the underlying values at an early age. Author Gillingham shows how friends, just like plants, must be carefully and patiently tended. With its beautiful, simple metaphors and sweet images of children gardening together, it is the perfect way to help children understand the skills needed to be a true friend.
The simple, lyrical text and enchanting artwork of Green Green: A Community Gardening Story make it ideal for young readers. Everyone knows that green green is playing in the fresh air and brown brown dirt is for digging, but what about the gray gray of buildings rising ever higher? I love that in this book as in many others on this list, it is the children that lead the way, inspiring the adults to create a community garden in the middle of all that gray gray. Includes at the back ideas for making your world a greener place, as well as information (and a craft!) specifically on bees and butterflies.
Errol’s Garden is a wonderful example of exactly why community gardens are so needed! Many children, like Errol, have no yard to have their own garden, yet with some perseverance and teamwork, people come together to make a green, growing space they can all share! When Errol discovers the perfect spot for a garden (the apartment building’s rooftop), he shares the news with his neighbors, who luckily are just as excited as he is. (Consider all the diversity boxes checked off in this community, from racial and religious diversity, to gay couples, a man in a wheelchair, and a woman with incredible green, spiky hair!) Everyone has something to contribute and works together to turn their rooftop into a beautiful garden. Illustrates beautifully how our differences are truly our strengths when we have a common goal.
Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos is a story told in Spanish and English about a girl who loves to garden with her family. But this summer Lupe has to solve a big mystery – where have all their juicy, ripe tomatoes gone? When Lupe discovers it is the new kid, just arrived from Mexico, who is taking the tomatoes, she digs deeper to find out that his family can’t afford to buy their own. That’s when Lupe shows her true colors, by inviting the boy to help in the garden in exchange for more tomatoes. The two become friends as they work together that summer, and Lupe is inspired to invite their neighbors to work with them in the garden the following summer.
In time, the Amigos Garden becomes a gathering place for the community, growing lasting friendships. Children will love this beautiful book and the kindness and confident leadership of its young protagonist. I love that diversity is shown not just in the having people of different colors working together, but in the small details, like the salsa Lupe’s mother makes, or the norteño musicians playing in the garden at the end. Don’t miss the easy recipes from Lupe’s garden!
The Children’s Garden: Growing Food in the City is based on a real community garden in Seattle! It was started by a local organization dedicated to teaching people to grow their own food. The Children’s Garden was founded soon after the organization was founded in 1978 and is still going strong today! This book showcases how community gardens can be particularly special for children. It conveys what a wonderful sensory experience gardening is, and the pride that the children feel in what they grow. I love the gorgeous illustrations of diverse children working together and connecting with nature.
Like Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos above, The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos De Huerto also comes from the bilingual publisher Piñata Books. The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos De Huerto tells the story of a very clever solution to a common problem: Often when people set out to add some green to their urban neighborhood, the spaces available are too small to build a traditional community garden. That is the problem Toña runs into, when she is inspired by stories of her abuela to create her own garden in the city. She gets permission from the church to use a little patch of land, but when the other children in the neighborhood want to garden, too, Toña quickly realizes her garden isn’t big enough for all of them.
And that is when she comes up with the idea of a patchwork garden, just like her abuela’s patchwork quilts! By asking at businesses around the neighborhood, Toña is able to assemble a number of small spaces for garden (outside the clinic, for example, and just next to the shoe shop). Now everyone can have their own little garden patch!
Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table is an absolute gem because it is based on the story of a real life hero. Former basketball star Will Allen saw a need for children in Milwaukee to have access to fresh vegetables, so he bought an abandoned city lot and got to work! But it wasn’t as easy as that. The soil was polluted, a problem that would have stopped most people, but not Will Allen. He started composting to create better soil, and soon the neighborhood kids took notice. Slowly he and the kids turned that empty lot into a thriving farm, right in the middle of the city. And now Will Allen travels widely, and he and his farm inspire others to start their own. He won a MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 2008, and through Growing Power he helped revolutionize urban farming. A truly inspiring story, which includes an afterword from Will Allen himself!
The Forgiveness Garden is a completely different take on the idea of a community garden. This parable of two warring villages was inspired by Beirut, torn apart through years of Civil War. In the parable, one girl, herself bitter after being attacked, decides to make a change, by opening her heart to forgiveness. When given the opportunity for revenge, she instead invites the people of both villages to work together to build a forgiveness garden. Yet even once it is built, people from both villages are scared to enter it, until finally the girl’s attacker, himself transformed through her kindness, joins her in the forgiveness garden. Inspired by the Forgiveness Garden in Beirut, which has sparked a global movement.