Neighbors in a run-down, multiethnic area of Cleveland gradually transform a junk-filled vacant lot into a community garden. Thirteen fictional characters—linked by the garden and the neighborhood—tell their stories with voices spanning a variety of backgrounds, personalities and poignant personal situations. The youngest character is 9, the oldest is over 90, and there are plenty of appealing children, teens and adults in between.
Several memorable characters are older people. A Romanian immigrant named Ana watches the vacant lot through her window and relates some of the ways the neighborhood has changed since she arrived as a child in 1919. Sam, a 78-year-old activist, encourages everyone to overcome ethnic prejudices. Tío Juan, a recent Guatemalan immigrant who speaks only a local Indian dialect, finds that his expertise as a farmer helps him overcome his isolation. Equally touching is Mr. Myles, a stroke victim who cannot speak. His nurse understands his gesture toward the garden, and she fills a large trash barrel with soil so he can plant and tend flowers from his wheelchair.
As the diverse gardeners get to know, accept and help one another, the whole neighborhood’s morale blooms along with the plants. Black-and-white illustrations show the pensive faces of the narrators and the crops they grow. This is an inspiring book about bridging emotional and perceptual gaps.