BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano, illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka

Groundwood Logos SpineOne of my favorite new artists – Japanese Canadian Kellen Hatanaka – debuts his first bookish collaboration with first-time author Jon-Erik Lappano and, together, the talented duo plant some mighty magical seeds.

Surrounded (choked?) by the crowded urban sprawl of an overgrown city, Tokyo and his family – including his clever and comical kitty Kevin – have somehow managed to live in the same small house which his grandfather has called ‘home’ since he was just a boy. Tokyo’s grandfather “loved to tell stories of how things used to be,” when “hills and forest and meadows and streams” were what they saw from the windows, rather than the overshadowed darkness of too-tall buildings, busy businesses, oversized billboards, and constant construction.

One afternoon, Tokyo and Kevin hear the music of an ice cream truck. Because Kevin loves ice cream, boy and cat follow the sound into the street, only to discover “just an old cart, pulled by an old bicycle, pedaled by an even older woman. The cart was not full of ice cream. It was full of dirt.” Disappointment aside, Tokyo goes home with three seeds the old woman gifts him with directions to plant them and promises that “‘they will grow into whatever you wish.'”

At home, Tokyo’s grandfather announces “‘Today is a good day for planting,'” and so Tokyo goes into their backyard and drops the three seeds into three holes he makes with his fingers. By the next morning, Tokyo’s garden has not only taken root, but flourished magnificently … and continues to do grow and grow and grow. Trees, vines, rivers return, as do deer, rabbits, bison, bears, and even bees. “‘What are we going to do?'” Tokyo’s grandfather muses as he, Tokyo, and – of course – Kevin enjoy the “deep, dark forest” that is now their backyard. Well … what … indeed?! Get the book and find out!

That Lappano is a self-described “sustainability practitioner” according to his personal website, who in his non-literary life “manage[s] the communications of Sustainability CoLab, a non-profit dedicated to building the low-carbon economy in cities across Ontario,” offers a few clues as to how Garden originally germinated. The resulting absolutely delightful sustainability-manifesto is made even more stupendous with Hatanaka’s witty, entertaining, sly illustrations – from his choice of billboards to the forgotten baseball to the curious insect to the irrepressible blooms. The undeniable silent star, no surprise, is Kevin who jumps, kicks, tantrums, chases, warns, lounges his way through with charming aplomb – not to mention finally earns a 15-scoop ice cream cone with a cherry on top!

Oh, the gleeeeeeeeeee … for us all!

Readers: Children

Published: 2016


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