Sometimes other bloggers or friends get the chance to tell me about a book I’ve never read. I know. It happens more often than you’d think. This week, my good friend Katie from Storybook Ancestor (and author of the Wayfaring Sisters series) is getting to do that for all of us. Because she offered to review Seedfolks for you guys, and I’ve never read it. Imagine how exited I now am to get my hands on this book. You will be, too.
YA Book Review by Katie Andrews Potter
KT Brison and I have a lot in common. We’re both Indiana girls, we’re both homeschoolers, and we both love books. I am all about stories in any format – books, movies, plays, musicals, storytelling – as KT says, “as long as it has words.” And I don’t know about you, but if you really connect with a story, it sticks with you. That’s what this particular book was for me.
I first read Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman in college for a course on teaching Literature. I read several YA books in that course but this one stuck out, and I knew I had to pick it up again and share it with KT and you, her readers. Seedfolks has truly unique storytelling for one very obvious reason: it’s told from many different points of view. And the main “character” isn’t even a person – it’s a garden.
The Garden in the City
Set in inner city Cleveland, Ohio, the book begins with a young girl named Kim. She is mourning the loss of her father on his death anniversary, mourning the fact that she never got to know him, and wishing that he had known her. Her father was a farmer in Vietnam, and so Kim plants a few lima beans – she could show him she is his daughter that way. But in her part of the city, there is no place to grow plants. Except the vacant lot. And so amidst all the trash, she scouts out a place and plants her seeds. She begins her little garden.
This one small action sets off a chain of events that continues through several more storytellers. Ana sees her tending her garden. She tells Wendell. Wendell steps in to help. And then Wendell decides to plant something. Gonzalo’s family does the same. The garden grows. Leona watches as the garden sprouts up among all the smelly trash and decides to do something about it. And the empty, trashed lot turns into a community garden, and the neighborhood people turn into a real community. Many folks who told their point of view show up in others’ tales in a beautiful story woven together, all centered around one garden started by a little girl with a few lima bean seeds. I won’t give away the ending, but as I read it a second time, years after college, I was anticipating it, having forgotten exactly how it wrapped up, and then it made me smile exactly the way I remembered it had before. The garden comes full circle, and we see how it brought so many different people and families from all different walks of life together.
Different sides to the story
It was the different points of view that made this book unique, but what each one had in common that made it so special. That’s the thing about stories – there’s always more than one side to a story. Listening to others’ points of view expands our worldview, and teaches us how to study the world and our history. Children naturally view the world through only their eyes, and exposing them to the ways others see the world teaches them to understand our diversity and the beauty behind it. It teaches them to value others. It teaches them to seek out truth for themselves. And ultimately, it teaches them to really learn. And that’s what we’re all about, right? Stories are the foundation of learning for children and young adults, all of us, really. We learn through story. Paul Fleischman exemplifies this in the beautiful stories of the Seedfolks and their garden. It’s stories that bring us together.