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Book Review: Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden

In his book, Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden, Andrew Larsen looks at the growth of a friendship, a garden, and community spirit. When Vincent spends the summer in a gray concrete part of a city with his Aunt Mimi, he meets a boy named Toma and his cat. A friendship begins and together the boys dispose of some mysterious dirt balls of Aunt Mimi by throwing them over a wall into a vacant lot. As the summer goes by the boys play ball and eat ice cream until one day they see that the vacant lot is alive with green shoots. As the shoots turn into flowering plants the whole community enjoys and takes care of the new garden.

The ink and water color illustrations follow the story line, starting out a bleak pale aqua with black lines, slowly adding touches of pink as the story progresses, and finally bursting into color when the garden blooms. Although the relationship between the illustrations and the text provides another layer of interest, less than half the book is upbeat and colorful. Perhaps a more appealing cat would soften the harsh imagery of the first two-thirds of the book. The book, however, teaches the importance of a connection with nature, the value of friendship, and the power of community involvement. Written for children ages 3-7, Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden, is a charming story and a good read aloud at the beginning of spring.

To buy Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden from Amazon, click here.