Book Review: Grow: A Novel in Verse
It's fast, it's fun, and the vegetables think!
Grow: A Novel in Verse
Author: Juanita Havill
Illustrator: Stanislawa Kodman
Publisher/ publication date: Peachtree Publishers/2008
Length: 159 pages
Age range: 8 to 12 years old
As the subtitle says, Grow is a novel written in verse. It is like a long poem divided into chapters with illustrations in black and white. Because it's in verse, the book is not as long as you may think when you count the pages!
Reading a whole book in verse is challenging because it's so unique. Once I adapted to the unusual format, I found it a pleasant and interesting experience. When you are reading poetry, you can relate to and feel things that no normal sentence could express.
The story is told from the point of view of Kate Sibley, a 12-year-old girl struggling with her weight. The other main characters are Berneetha, a special education teacher who decides to plant a community garden on a trash-strewn vacant lot, and Harlan, a graffiti painter who leaves behind his illegal paint to plant.
You'll also meet other members of the community who slowly grow to the love the garden as they get involved in helping it come to be. Best of all, you will go into the minds and feelings of the plants—the pansies, tomatoes, lettuce, and flowers—that bring the garden to life.
After weeks of gardening, Berneetha, Kate, and Harlan discover that the owner of the lot has died unexpectedly. His son wants to turn the lot into a parking garage. He wants to tear down the half-grown garden, killing all of the plants in the process. Everyone starts to worry that there won't be a community garden after all.
I liked this book because the characters are interesting and easy to relate to. They experience emotional trials that a lot of us go through as well, like having something that you want taken away from you. The author really put some thought into how to make the characters. That's why I got so lost in the story.
I also loved how the plants are personified. It was really neat to know what the plants were feeling, like the lettuce's happiness and the pansies' fear of cold weather.
Overall, it was clever of the author to make the garden a symbol of the community. The garden is affected by zoning issues and the characters are affected by issues of weight, divorce, abuse, crime, death, and love. As the garden grows, so do the characters, and in this growing and suffering, the community comes together.
The story is so engrossing, it goes by quickly. This is a book I am definitely recommending to my friends. It will even make a good second read!
For more about Grow: A Novel in Verse, check out Kid Reporter Maya Williams' interview with author Juanita Hill!
Do you need help picking out what book to read next? Find out what Kid Reporters are saying about all the latest books by reading their book reviews in this special report.
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