The Concrete Garden

Candlewick. Nov. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781536233803.
PreS-Gr 2–The joy of children working together in creative pursuit is beautifully captured in Graham’s subtle lyricism and delicate illustrations. When a diverse collective of neighborhood children spill like “candies from a box,” onto their apartment building’s courtyard with a winter’s worth of pent-up energy, magic is sure to happen. The drab gray of the pavement provides a spacious canvas for the colorful chalk creation young Amanda has in mind. Her abstract circles are taken up as the petals of a dandelion by Jackson, and accented by another child’s mushrooms, and so the concrete garden is sown. Of course, the cheeky neighborhood dog contributes in his own way, to the chagrin of the Bradley twins. The colorful cheer of the “beautiful and exotic” garden—although temporary—spreads well beyond the confines of the apartment courtyard. Graham carefully arranges vignettes on a white backdrop to bring the chalk garden to the fore, and his similes add unexpected depth to the straightforward narrative.
VERDICT This read-aloud will inspire many rich conversations about community, emotions, and kindness with preschool and early–school age children. Recommended purchase.

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